NO DOGS ALLOWED?
Around 60% of stores and all food service establishments are not allowed to welcome dogs, and that can be bad for business, not to mention hard for dog owners. Many businesses have noticed an uptick in the number of service animals, emotional support animals, and therapy animals coming through their doors, but do they have to let them in?
Dogs are the most common type of service animal, but depending on the laws in your state, other types of animals may also be permitted as service animals. For the purposes of this article, we will be discussing dogs in particular.
THE INS AND OUTS OF SERVICE DOGS AND YOUR BUSINESS
Not all businesses can allow animals inside. Whether you serve food, are concerned about the health and comfort of other patrons, or have a personal preference not to allow animals inside your shop, you reserve the right to prohibit pets from entering your establishment. Service dogs are, of course, the exception—because of their essential function to protect their owners, they must be granted access to public spaces. But things can get complicated when emotional support and therapy dogs are added to the mix. It’s important to know your rights as a business owner and how to best handle delicate situations without alienating or violating the rights of your customers.
WHAT IS A SERVICE DOG?
A service animal is not a pet. Service dogs are specifically trained to perform tasks that a person cannot perform for themselves due to a disability. These dogs are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and must be allowed into your business.*
When a disability or need for a service animal isn’t obvious, staff may verify a service animal by asking two questions:
Is this service animal needed because of a disability?
What work or task is the animal trained to perform?
A dog that provides general support or comfort without training to do so under specific circumstances is not considered a service animal under federal law, even if they are registered or prescribed by a doctor. However, a service dog handler is not required to carry papers or have a vest to prove their dog is a service dog; if someone answers your two questions above satisfactorily, they’re entitled under federal law to be everywhere that people are allowed.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A SERVICE DOG IS DISRUPTIVE OR DANGEROUS?
If a service dog is, for example, continuously barking for no reason, not housebroken, or poses a specific threat to the health and safety of others (but not based on stereotypes about their breed), property managers are permitted to have the service dog removed from the premises. However, the handler must still be provided access to the business’ goods and services.
HOW CAN I RESPECTFULLY DENY ENTRY TO AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT OR THERAPY DOG?
The idea of telling a prospective patron or customer that they are not welcome in your establishment because of a pet can be daunting. Even now that you’re familiar the laws, it can be difficult to balance your rights with the business value of accommodating your customers in every possible way.
That’s where DogSpot comes in.
DogSpot offers a way for businesses to be dog friendly without allowing dogs inside your establishment. DogSpots are smart dog houses that you can place outside of your storefront to provide a safe, comfortable, and climate-controlled place for dogs, so your customers can feel confident about their dog’s health and safety while you maintain a safe and clean environment inside.
WHAT ABOUT EMOTIONAL SUPPORT OR THERAPY ANIMALS?
While a service animal is not a pet, an emotional support animal is technically still a pet, despite aiding a person living with a disability, primarily because they aren’t necessarily trained to perform a specific task. While they do have special permissions for airplane and housing situations, businesses are not legally required to allow them entry under federal law. However, state laws can vary, so be sure to check local and state laws when creating an animal and pet policy for your store.
Therapy animals are not prescribed for individual handlers but instead are certified for the support and comfort of others, i.e. they are employed to bring cheer to hospitals, nursing homes, and similar settings. These animals do not have any special access privileges like service or emotional support animals.
Interested in making your business more dog friendly? We can help! Please fill out this form below to learn how to reserve a Dog Parker for your business.
U.S. Department of Justice Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Service Animals
U.S. Department of Justice Overview of Service Animal Regulations
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Guidance Document on Service and Assistance Animals
Table of State Service and Assistance (Emotional Support) Animal Laws
For additional guidance creating savvy and safe pet and service animal policies, contact our friends at Opening Doors
Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive review of service or emotional support animal regulations and should not be construed as legal advice. If you require legal advice about service or emotional support animals, please contact an attorney familiar with these laws who is licensed in your state.
*Depending on the laws in your state, other types of dogs, such as service dogs in training, may also be permitted access.