A service dog is a professionally trained dog that helps disabled people to perform certain daily tasks. In the US, the regulations related to the presence of  service dogs in public places are ambiguous. From the legal point, no documentation or certification is needed for a service dog.

However, some businesses and people may ask you about your disability and require explanations. If you don’t want to permanently make excuses for why you need a service dog, it’s better to apply for online certification and demonstrate it to all curious people. Though it’s not obligatory, the presence of an official certification can be an additional proof for many people unfamiliar with the law. Certification increases your chances to enter public spaces and live in the no-pet properties with no questions asked.

Generally, service dogs are allowed to enter the majority of places where the humans can go: restaurants, shops, museums, ambulances and hospitals. However, there are some limitations. The fullest information is placed on the Ada.gov website. Here we’ll provide you our interpretation of the main points:

The List Of Places Where Service Dogs Are Not Allowed to Enter

  • Sterile Places

Though service dogs can accompany their owners in the ambulance and most hospital areas, they are not allowed to enter sterile rooms. You can have your dog close to you in the bed areas or the waiting room. But you can’t bring your service dog in an operation room, ICU or treatment room. These measures lower the risk of infection which is more important in such a situation than having a dog beside.  Moreover, if the person is under anesthesia, a service dog cannot perform tasks anyway. The same rule relates to clean places where microchips are fabricated.

  • Places Where Food Is Prepared

While it’s allowed to bring your service dog with you in the cafés, restaurants and their toilet areas, it’s not permitted for a service dog to enter the area where food is prepared.

  • Zoos and Other Places With Animals

As a rule, all open-air facilities are open to pet owners, but there are exceptions. For example, places that have animals or butterflies. If you want to visit such a place, it’s better to contact them in advance and get to know the rules. It’s always a case-by-case scenario and depends on the zoo policy. Sometimes, service dogs are allowed to visit closed reptile or penguins exhibit, but not allowed to accompany their owners to wolves and tigers. The same situation is with national parks. For example, bears are not able to tell the difference between a service dog and wolf or coyote. So, for safety reasons, you have not to bring your dog to such places. You should remember that zoos are created to support animals. If zoo owners consider that your dog and you can be harmful somehow for the zoo, they are able to restrict your visit.

  • Churches and Church Related Facilities

There are no distinct rules about allowing service dogs in churches, the decision is made by each church community individually.

  • Federal Courts, Native American Tribal Council Chambers, Jails 

The decision about allowing a person with a disability to enter with a service dog is made in each individual case by the council, judge or the jail’s director.

  • Private Clubs and Private Homes

Whether to accept the person with a service dog depends on the owner’s decision.

  • Amusement Parks

Generally, people with service dogs are allowed to walk in amusement parks, but can not be allowed to visit some rides. This depends on the manager’s decision and the actual risk for you and surrounding people.

Is It Illegal When Somebody Denies a Person With a Service Dog?

Service dog in a cafeOverall, if we talk about private businesses, they can not permit a service dog, if they prove that a service dog brings a direct threat, alteration or undue burden. However, they have to allow a person with a disability to enter or receive accommodation without a service dog. If there are not objective reasons why a person does not allow your service dog to enter, carry your point. Nobody has the right to ask you to demonstrate how your dog performs the tasks.

The only authority that can decide if your dog is a truly service dog is a judge, not a landlord or a park manager. Refusing to enter with a service dog and being rude is unprofessional and illegal according to both Federal and local laws. However, you should be aware that your behavior may also be the reason for denial. If you are not able to control your pet, and he/she is barking, snapping, growling, defecating in inappropriate places and making trouble to other people, the place owner has a legal right to refuse your visit.

So, it’s all about giving the disabled person as much access with his/her dog as possible, but with no violating other people’s boundaries.

As for emotional support animals the rules differ. There are more places they are not allowed to enter. Discover more details about the rights and restrictions for bringing an emotional support dog on a plane or dog-free housing in this post “Can an Emotional Support Dog Go Anywhere With You?”