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Service Dog Laws – Know your rights

05 August, 2017

Do you know what to do and say when you are traveling with your Service Dog?

Taking the step to adopt and train a service dog is tough work. The bond a handler and a service dog develops is one of the deepest and most meaningful relationships that exist.

A challenge many service dog handlers face is how to travel and enter public spaces with their service dog. Especially at places with a no-pet policy. Restaurants, hotels, and airports are typically better informed about service dog laws. However, places like the beach, movie theaters, and schools are less informed about service dog rights. It also brings up specific questions that may be hard to answer.

  1. Is my service dog required to wear a vest?
  2. What if my service dog is denied access?

The most important step is to understand service dog laws clearly.  We have included a few tips on how to handle and work with hostile employees who are aggressive or ignorant about your service dog.

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  1. Service Dog Question #1- What should I say when an employee asks me about my service dog?

    The first step is to assess if the person is aware of service dog rules and regulations.

    1. If they are aware of service dog rights, simply inform them that you are traveling with a certified service dog, and confirm the task your service dog provides. Thank them for asking politely and proceed with your day.
    2. If they are not aware, show them your service dog certification or license. Inform them that your dog is a trained service dog and has public access rights. Let them know that your dog will not interrupt business practices and will remain by your side, as permitted by federal law.
    3. If they remain hostile towards your service dog and deny you access, refer them to Service Dog Certifications for more information on service dog laws. Let them know that they are violating your rights and are openly discriminating against your disability by preventing you access. Ask them to speak to their manager and stay firm but calm and polite. By staying firm and helping them understand service dog rights, you are helping other service dog handlers avoid negative confrontations in the future.
  2. Service Dog Question #2- Do I need a Service Dog vest?

    1. A convenient way to avoid this issue is to order a service dog vest for your service dog. This will help communicate visually that your dog is not a pet and is a trained service dog. This may help eliminate some verbal confrontations as there is a visual indicator that your dog is a service dog. This is particularly helpful for people suffering from PTSD, social anxiety, or any invisible disabilities.
    2. If you choose not to have your service dog wear a service dog vest, that is your legal right. Some people choose not to have their service dog wear a vest because it is uncomfortable for the dog and distracts them from performing their task. Others choose not to have their service dog wear a vest because they are not comfortable with broadcasting that they have a disability. Remember, not all disabilities are visible and no one should be judged for trying to improve their lives. If the person you are speaking to demands that your dog wears a service dog vest,  inform them that you choose not to have your service dog wear a vest but that you have your service dog certification or identification to share with them.
    3. If they continue to insist that your service dog wear a vest, inform them that the ADA does not require your service dog wear a vest and even specifically prevents companies from requiring this. Ask the person to speak with their manager or refer to service dog rights on Service Dog Certifications.
  3. Service Dog Question #3- People are provoking my Service Dog, can the property ask us to leave?

    Your service dog needs to be in your control at all times and cannot bark or cause a disturbance in public. However, the ADA also specifically states that a service dog may respond by barking if provoked and is not deemed a disturbance if the barking was provoked. If this is happening to you, inform a store employee that your service dog is being harassed and request they assist you. Examples of provoking include:

    1. Aggressively staring at your dog
    2. Touching your service dog without permission
    3. Whistling and talking at your dog in a menacing way
  4. Service Dog Question #4-  Can a person ask me why I need a service dog if I am not blind or in a wheel chair?

    No one is ever allowed to ask you specifically about your disability. They may only ask you two questions regarding your Service Dog.

    1. Is that a service dog (if you choose not to have your SD wear a vest)?
    2. What service(s) does your service dog provide? (They may not ask you to demonstrate your dog’s service)
  5. Service Dog Question #5- Should I carry a service dog license?

    You are not legally required to have a Service Dog Licensed, Registered, or Certified. Many handlers prefer to carry one to avoid harassment while out in public. Unfortunately, service dog rights are not common knowledge and people often assume your dog is NOT a service dog unless you carry a Service Dog identification card. You may choose to order one and register your service dog to avoid confrontations with ignorant store employees.

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