Common Questions about Service & Support Animals

Common Questions about Service & Support Animals

A “Service Animal” is defined under the American with Disabilities Act “ADA” as dogs, or miniature horses, that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.

A service animal can be any breed of dog.  A service animal may not be excluded based on assumptions or stereotypes about the animal’s breed or how the animal might behave. However, if a particular service animal behaves in a way that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, has a history of such behavior, or is not under the control of the handler, that animal may be excluded.

Further, municipalities that prohibit specific breeds of dogs must make an exception for a service animal of a prohibited breed, unless the dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff is limited in what questions can be asked.

The following two specific questions are allowed under the law: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? And (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? A property manager cannot ask about a person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the service animal, or ask that the animal demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

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 handler does not take effective action to control it, or (2) the animal is not housebroken. No pet fee or pet deposit can be charged for service animals (they are not deemed “pets”). The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness. Disabled persons are not required to use a professional service dog training program, and staff cannot require documentation or proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal as a condition for rental. However, service animals are subject to local dog licensing and vaccination requirements.

*This article is not intended as legal advice. If an owner has a question involving a specific situation involving a service or support animal, the owner should seek the advice of a licensed attorney.

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