FAQ about Service Animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

 Both public and private colleges and universities must provide equal access to postsecondary education for students with disabilities. Title III of the ADA covers privately-funded schools. All schools that receive federal funding are required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to make their programs accessible to students with disabilities.

All programs of postsecondary institutions, including extracurricular activities, must be accessible to students with disabilities. The school can do this in serveral ways: by providing architectural access to buildings, including residential facilities; by providing aids and services necessary for effective communications, like sign language interpreters, Braille or electronic formats and assistive listening devices; and by modifiyng policies, practices and procedures, such as testing accommodations and access to school facilities for service animals. Many people with disabilities use a service animal in order to fully participate in everyday life. Dogs can be trained to perform many important tasks to assist people with disabilities.

Definition of a Service Animal

What is a service animal?

Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability.

What does "do work or perform tasks" mean?

The dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disabilitiy. For example, a person with diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert them when their blood sugar reaches high or low levels. A person with mental health issues may have a dog that is trained to calm a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack or remind them to take their medications.

Does the ADA require services animals to be professionally trained?

No. People with disabilities have the right to train their dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.

Are services-animals-in-training considered service animals under the ADA?

No. Under the ADA, the dog must already be trained before it can be taken into public places. However, some State and local laws cover animals that are still in training.

General Rules

What questions can staff ask to determine if a dog is a service animal?

 In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two questions: 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?" Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person's disability.

Do service animals have to wear a vest or patch or special harnesses identifying them as service animals?

No, the ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harnesses. However, the ADA does stipulate that service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal's work.

Who is responsible for the care and supervision of a service animal?

The handler is responsibility for caring for and supervising the service animal, which includes toileting, feeding, grooming, and veterinary care. College employees are not obligated to supervise or otherwise care for a service animal.

What must I do when an individual with a service animal comes to my classroom or business?

The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.

Do establishments with a clearly posted "no pets" sign/policy have to allow service animals in?

Yes. A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires you to modify your "no pets" policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. This does not mean you must abandon your "no pets" policy altogether, but simply that you must make an exception to your general rule for service animals.

Certifications and Registrations

Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?

No. Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.

Can service animal be any breed of dog?

Yes. The ADA does not restrict the type of dog breeds that can be service animals.

Can individuals with disabilities be refused access to a facility based solely on the breed of their service animal?

No. 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, the animal may be excluded. If an animal is excluded for such reasons, staff must still offer their services to the person without the animal present.

Exclusion of Service Animals

Under what circumstances can a service animal be asked to leave or not allowed participation in the classroom or on campus?

  1. If a service animal is found to be disruptive in the classroom;

  2. If a service animal shows aggression towards their handler or other members of the campus or the community;

  3. If a service animal is physically ill;

  4. If the service animal is unreasonably dirty;

  5. Any place on campus where the presence of a service animal causes danger to the safety of the handler or other students/members of the campus community; or

  6. Any place on campus where a service animal's safety is compromised.

What does under control mean? Do service animals have to be quiet and not bark?

The ADA requires that service animals be under the control of the handler at all times. In most instances, the handler will be the individual with a disability. Under control means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet places. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

Resources : U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section and ADA National Network (2017).