How to determine public access for service animals

With all the news concerning what animals have public access, here’s an explanation of who are and who aren’t service animals

courtesy of the United States of America Department of Justice Code of Federal Regulations for Americans with Disabilities

STOP! no access

The following animals are NOT considered service animals and ARE NOT allowed public access under the federal regulations:

Therapy Animals

These animals and their handlers have been trained to perform tasks such as visiting patients in hospitals and nursing homes, working with incarcerated individuals, assisting those in reading programs.  These animals are pets.

Emotional Support Animals

The sole function of these animals is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or promote emotional well-being.  However, these dogs may be in the cabin of an airplane as long as the handlers provide required Federal Aviation Administration documentation and are in their emotional roles during the flight.

CAUTION! may or may not have access

Animals working with individuals with psychiatric and post-traumatic stress disorders

A pet or support animal may be able to discern that the individual is in distress. Still, IT IS WHAT THE ANIMAL IS TRAINED TO DO in response to this awareness that distinguishes a service animal from an observant pet or support animal.

Tasks performed by psychiatric service animals may include reminding individuals to take medicine, providing safety checks or room searches for individuals with PTSD, interrupting self-mutilation, and removing disoriented individuals from dangerous situations.  The provision of any of these listed tasks meets the service animal definition under the ADA, and, therefore, these animals are granted access.

Service Animals in Training

These animals are not covered under the federal code, but many states have codes requiring public access to these animals and their handlers.


Service Animals

These dogs, and in some cases, miniature horses, are working to provide tasks for their handlers to allow the handlers to accomplish their activities of daily living, such as bathing, shopping, walking, working, going to school, etc. and the federal law requires public access without segregation due to the animal.

The animal’s handler is NOT REQUIRED to be the person with the disability, but the work or tasks performed by the service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.


Little Doggies Rule has a great article on The Top Benefits of Getting an Emotional Support Dog,” which we think you would truly appreciate.

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