Home PageBlog › Pennsylvania Service Dog Requirements

Pennsylvania Service Dog Requirements

Pennsylvania Service Dog Requirements

Residents of Pennsylvania who require a service dog are legally recognized under federal and state law. The ADA and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act protect owners of service dogs in the Keystone State. 

Service dogs in Pennsylvania must be allowed in areas open to the public, even if there is a policy that prohibits entry to normal dogs. Read on to learn more about service dog rights and requirements in Pennsylvania. 

Health Requirements 

To own a service dog, the handler must have an eligible physical or mental health disability.  A “disability” is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity (such as the ability to work, socialize or attend school). 

Physical disabilities include health issues like visual impairment, seizures, and hearing loss. 

Psychiatric disabilities include conditions like severe depression, chronic anxiety, PTSD, autism, and learning disabilities. Service dogs used for mental health conditions are known as psychiatric service dogs.

Training Requirements

It is not enough just to have a qualifying disability. A service dog must also perform a job or task directly related to the handler’s condition. 

Service dogs are called upon to perform countless jobs. Tasks for physical disabilities include actions like pulling wheelchairs, guiding people who are blind, and providing seizure assistance. 

Tasks for psychiatric disabilities include retrieving medication, providing tactile stimulation during moments of crisis, calming the owner during panic attacks, and buffering in crowded environments.

In Pennsylvania, you can train a service dog by yourself or with the help of a professional trainer. Many handlers prefer to do part or all of the training to develop a deeper bond with their animal. 

How to make my dog a service dog (infographic) - Service Dog Certifications
Start Now - Button

Identification Requirements for Service Dogs in Pennsylvania 

Most service dog owners use service dog paraphernalia like ID cards, vests, tags, and certificates to signal to others in public that their dog is special.

You are not required to have these items in Pennsylvania to demonstrate that you own a service dog. These items, however, can prevent unwanted interactions and interference with your dog while on duty. Service dog owners prefer to use these items so others can easily identify their dog as a service dog, not a regular pet. 

Stores, restaurants, and other public venues in Pennsylvania can verify a service dog by asking two questions when the disability is not obvious: 1. Is the animal a service dog required for a disability? and 2. What work or task has the service dog been trained to perform?

Service Dog Registration in Pennsylvania 

Registering a service dog in Pennsylvania is optional. You may have to register your dog if there is a local rule that requires registration of all dogs in a jurisdiction, but no service dog-specific registration is necessary. 

Service dog owners, however, choose to voluntarily register their dogs for several reasons. Registering a service dog with a service like Service Dog Certifications enters the dog’s information into a searchable database linked to an ID card. 

The ID card can be used to show others that you own a service dog or be presented for convenience when third parties unaware of service dog verification rules continually demand documentation.

Psychiatric Service Dog Requirements

Most people associate service dogs with the type that assist with physical disabilities. However, many service dogs help with invisible disabilities in the form of psychiatric illnesses. 

In Pennsylvania, psychiatric service dogs have the same legal rights as other types of service dogs. They are just as important to their handlers for managing their health condition. 

Psychiatric service dogs perform an incredible variety of tasks, including the following:

  • Deep pressure therapy
  • Reminding the owner to take medication
  • Posting and watching the owner’s back in open areas
  • Tactile stimulation
  • Alerting the owner to oncoming threats or episodes
  • Disrupting repetitive self-destructive behaviors
Get your PSD Letter now

Where can service dogs go in Pennsylvania?

Service dogs in Pennsylvania are allowed to accompany their owners in public areas that don’t allow pets. For example, a handler can bring their service dog to:

  • Restaurants
  • Shops
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Hotels

Service dogs also have housing rights. They must be allowed to live with their owners, even in buildings that don’t allow dogs. 

Service dogs can also go into airports in Pennsylvania and board flights with their handlers free of charge. Flying with a service dog requires specific documentation to be submitted to the airline before boarding. 

No matter where a handler takes a service dog, it must always be under the full control of its handler. A service dog that is acting unruly, aggressive, or threatening the health and safety of others can be asked to leave the premises. 

Service dog inside a restaurant
In Pennsylvania, service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners in public areas, including inside restaurants.

Emotional Support Animals in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania also recognizes another type of assistance animal – emotional support animals. ESAs are similar to psychiatric service dogs in that they help with mental health conditions. However, unlike service dogs, ESAs do not require specialized training. 

Emotional support animals also have more limited rights. They are allowed to live with their owners free of charge in no-pets housing, but they do not have broader public access rights. 

Another difference between ESAs and service dogs is that an ESA can be an animal other than a dog. While service animals are limited to dogs, ESAs can be dogs, cats, birds, gerbils, fish, turtles, and other small household pets.

To qualify for an ESA in Pennsylvania, the tenant must provide a signed ESA letter from a healthcare professional licensed for Pennsylvania. 

Psychiatric service dog or Emotional support animal infographic.

Service Dog Legal Developments in Pennsylvania 

In 2018, Pennsylvania passed the Assistance Animal and Service Animal Integrity Act. This law recognizes the importance of service dogs and emotional support animals in the state. The bill was also intended to prevent individuals from fraudulently representing that their animal is a service dog or emotional support animal without the proper qualifications. 

Violating the rights of a service dog owner in Pennsylvania can have legal consequences. For example, in a recent case, a 16-year-old girl successfully sued her school for failing to properly accommodate her service dog and won a $100,000 settlement. 

Register Service Dog - Banner


  1. Sherri says: April 21, 2023

Leave a Reply

Latest Posts

Information at this site is provided solely for the user’s information and, while we strive to be accurate, all information is provided strictly “as is” and without warranty of any kind. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for legal counsel from a qualified attorney. ServiceDogCertifications.org, its agents, affiliates, employees or contractors will not be liable to you for any damages, direct or indirect, or lost profits arising out of your use of information provided at this site, or information provided at any other site that can be accessed from this site.