Hotel Rights for Service Dogs
Just like everyone else, service dog owners will stay at a hotel every so often. When they do, they can bring their service dogs with them for the duration of their stay. No matter how extravagant or simple the hotel is, the service dog must be allowed to remain with its owner as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The ADA defines a service animal as any animal trained to provide help to an individual with a disability. Their assistance allows an owner to perform a task that they are unable to perform themselves. Therefore, service animals are not pets because they serve a specific and essential medical function.
Service dogs may accompany their owners wherever they go. Due to this right, federal regulations let service dogs into public areas, like hotels. Hotels aren’t permitted to decline the presence of a service dog within their business, even with a “no pets” policy in place—hotel’s pet policies do not apply to service dogs.
What Questions Can a Hotel Ask?
If a service dog’s function isn’t immediately apparent, like a guide dog, employees may only ask the dog owner two questions:
- Is your dog a service dog?
- If your dog is a service dog, what service does it provide?
It’s against federal regulations for hotel employees to ask for any proof, like a certificate or license. Due to privacy laws regarding health and disabilities, employees aren’t allowed to inquire about the service dog owner’s qualifying disability.
Most hotel employees are aware of ADA and service dog regulations. However, some staff may be unfamiliar, ask too many questions, or behave inappropriately. If this occurs, a dog owner can politely ask to speak to their supervisor.
Can a Hotel Make Limitations Regarding Your Hotel Experience?
Hotels cannot isolate service dogs and their owners from other guests or restrict them to certain rooms.
A hotel isn’t allowed to restrict a service dog owner from amenities that other customers can access. For example, the restaurant areas of a hotel should be accessible to a service dog and it’s owner. Shopping areas and hotel grounds should also be open to service dog owners.
Can a Hotel Charge Extra Fees for Having a Service Dog?
Hotels are not allowed to charge fees for a service animal that guests without a service animal don’t have to pay.
A hotel can’t charge a fee that wouldn’t apply to patrons without a service dog. For example, a hotel may charge for the repairs for damages incurred by a service dog. However, those same fees would also apply if a non-disabled person would be charged for the same damages.
Hotel owners should think of a service dog as an extension of a person’s effort to overcome a disability, rather than an animal. It would be wrong to charge a person with a disability a fee for their cane or wheelchair; thus, the same applies to a service dog.
When Can a Hotel Limit or Refuse Services Due to a Service Dog?
Hotels can refuse customers whose service dog behaves aggressively or becomes disruptive.
There’s a reason why service dogs undergo extensive training. Poor behavior by a service dog can compromise their ability to do their job. These dogs are around the public more than other dogs and, and need to be safe at all times.
If a service dog growls or barks at other customers, the hotel can ask the owner to remove the service dog from the premises.
Hotels may also refuse entry to a service dog in sterile settings. For example, a medical area where surgery is performed can be considered a location where a service dog isn’t allowed.
What is a Service Dog Owner’s Responsibility in a Hotel?
The hotel employees aren’t obligated to care for the service dog. The dog’s needs have to be met by its owner. Feeding, exercising, grooming, and toileting the dog is the owner’s responsibility.
A service dog needs to be under the owner’s control throughout the entire stay. The dog should always have a leash or a harness unless it interferes with its tasks. The employees and guests aren’t allowed to feed, pet, or play with the service dog. Also, service dogs should be in the presence of their owner at all times. Leaving a service dog alone in a hotel room can endanger hotel staff and put the legitimacy of the service in question.
Visiting Hotels with Your Service Dog
When staying at a hotel with your service dog be firm but courteous towards the hotel employees and other guests. Recognizing a service animal might be difficult at first. The ADA doesn’t require service dogs to be registered or have a certificate. However, having the appropriate documentation on hand can reduce the need for clarification between service dog owners and hotel employees. Registering a service dog can help make fulfilling their task easier for you and them.
If initially there is tension between a hotel employee and a service dog owner, it’s best to remain calm and explain the legal rights of service dog ownership. Bad experiences in the past may have shaped the employee’s views. Setting a good example and presenting a well-trained service animal may help overcome any disagreements left in the room.