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Q & A - "Service Animals"

Q - A lot of my customers bring their dogs in to my restaurant. Are the dogs supposed to be wearing some sort of vest? Can I ask to see a doctor’s order for the service dog? Some of my other customers are now complaining about the dogs in my restaurant and they are not really service dogs but the persons pet. HELP!

A - Hello, I hear your frustration. Let's break it down a bit.

There are many types of working dogs now, which can make it difficult to identify animals that are allowed to accompany their owners into an establishment where food is served. In March of 2011 the American Disabilities Act (ADA) revised the regulations and only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA.

The definition of “service animal” is limited to a dog that is 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.

Your staff may ask only two questions about the dog: (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.

Under the ADA, “comfort”, “therapy” or “emotional support animals” do not meet the definition of a service animal.

These questions are intended to protect those with a service dog and a disability. Unfortunately, other folks are abusing this so they can bring in their pets. At this point, your hands are tied unless the dog acts unruly. Unacceptable behavior is described next.

‘Service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents the individual from using these devices. Businesses may exclude service animals only if 1) the dog is out of control and the handler cannot or does not regain control; or 2) the dog is not housebroken. If a service animal is excluded, the individual must be allowed to enter the business without the service animal.



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