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Indiana Protection & Advocacy Services

IPAS > Equal Access > ADA Service Animals ADA Service Animals

Service animals— are defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service animals are working animals, not pets. Generally, title II and title III entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.

Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under the ADA. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA.)

Some State and local laws, including Indiana law, define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Indiana law defines a service animal as an animal trained as: (1) a hearing animal; (2) a guide animal; (3) an assistance animal; (4) a seizure alert animal; (5) a mobility animal; (6) a psychiatric service animal; or (7) an autism service animal. Indiana does not limit “service animals” to only dogs.

A few examples of the tasks service animals may perform include, but are not limited to:

• Guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision.
• Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds.
• Warning an individual that they are about to have a seizure (a “signal animal”) or assisting an individual during a seizure.
• Pulling a wheelchair or fetching items.
• Retrieving medicine or the phone.
• Providing minimal protection or rescue work.
• Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities.
• Assisting individuals, including those with cognitive disabilities, with
navigation.

Helpful ways to interact with a person who has a service animal:

• Best practice is to allow an animal to remain with the person when possible.

• A service animal must be under the control of the owner. If it is out of control or a direct threat, it can be removed. If you are going to move owner, plan to move the animal with the owner.

• Ask the owner’s permission before touching or speaking to the animal. If you need to take the animal, hold the leash. A service animal is not a pet.

General Service Animal Guidelines

  • Businesses may ask if an animal is a service animal, or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform. They cannot require special ID cards for animals or ask about people's disabilities.
  • People with disabilities aided by 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 caused, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.
  • Violators of the ADA can be required to pay monetary damages and penalties.
  • A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove their 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.
  • Service dog etiquette:
    • Do not touch the service animal, or the person it assists, without the owner's permission
    • Do not make noises at the service animal; this action could distract the animal from performing its job
    • Do not feed the service animal; this could disrupt his/her schedule
    • Do not feel offended if a person with a service animal does not wish to discuss his/her disability or the assistance their service animal provides
  • The Disability Rights Section within the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice has issued a new technical assistance document reflecting the recent changes to the ADA Regulations regarding Service Animals.   This document can be found on-line at:

    http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm (HTML Version)

    http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.pdf  (PDF Version)

If you have additional questions concerning the ADA and service animals, please call the U.S. Department of Justice's toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY), or visit http://www.ada.gov/.