What are my rights as a business?

If a person verbally claims their animal is a Service Animal, you must allow them to enter. Allergies and fear of animals are generally not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people with Service Animals. Violators of the ADA can be required to pay money damages and penalties. Additionally, you must modify your businesses’ policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a Service Animal by an individual with a disability.

You may ask a Service Animal to leave if (1) the animal is out of control and the animal’s owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

Any property damage or civil damage is the sole responsibility of the Service Dog owner. Service Dog owners are required to clean up after their animals.

While Service Animals are expected to behave appropriately at all times, please remember they are not robots. They have bad days and sometimes feel under the weather — just like you!

View the U.S. Department of Justice ADA Business Brief: Service Animals in your browser.

Download the U.S. Department of Justice ADA Business Brief: Service Animals as a PDF.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their Service Animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.

  • Businesses may ask if an animal is a Service Animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform, but cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person’s disability.
  • People with disabilities who use Service Animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons, or treated less favorably than other patrons. However, if a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her Service Animal.
  • A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his Service Animal from the premises unless: (1) the animal is out of control and the animal’s owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. In these cases, the business should give the person with the disability the option to obtain goods and services without having the animal on the premises.
  • Businesses that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
    A business is not required to provide care or food for a service animal or provide a special location for it to relieve itself.
  • Allergies and fear of animals are generally not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people with service animals.
    Violators of the ADA can be required to pay money damages and penalties.

If you have additional questions concerning the ADA and service animals, please call the Department’s ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY) or visit the ADA Business Connection at ada.gov.

Did you find this information helpful? If so, you may also be interested in these pieces:

Federal Service Dog Law in Plain English
Hospital Access Rights for Service Dog Teams
Service Dog Etiquette
Things Service Dogs in Public Should and Should Not Do
That’s Not a Service Dog
Types of Service Dogs
Federal Service Dog Law Hand-Out
Minimum Behavior and Training Standards for Service Dogs in Public