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Traveling with a Service Dog on the New York Subway

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In light of the recent report of an alleged Service Dog attacking a passenger on a New York subway, there has been much discussion about what a Service Dog is and if they are allowed on public transportation.

In this post, we will explore the role of the Service Dog, what makes it different from other “service” animals, and if it is allowed on public transportation.

Service Dogs Versus Therapy Animals and Emotional Support Animals

It’s a misnomer that all animals used for medical reasons are “Service Animals.” In fact, only dogs (and sometimes miniature horses) trained to do a specific task for a disabled person can be legally called “Service Animals.”

Animals used for comfort or emotional therapy bring support to people who are emotionally disabled. This includes those that deal with anxiety, depression, and phobias. Therapy Animals or Emotional Support Animals (ESA) can be of any species (rodents, birds, feline, reptilian, etc.,) and are not trained for a detailed task. For this reason, they are not legally considered to fall under the definition of Service Animal.

Certified Service Dog Registration

Service Dogs and the New York Subway

Canal Street MTA stationUnder the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Service Dogs are allowed on the New York Subway system. They must be harnessed or leashed and under the handler’s full control (which all Service Dogs are trained to be). However, according to the ADA, the Service Dog is not required to wear a vest, ID tag or identifying harness (although most do).

According to NYSubway.com;

“On some occasions a customer traveling with a service animal may be asked by Police Officer or MTA representative, to describe the tasks the animal can perform. A customer who does not comply with the request may be asked to leave the transport facility, but this rarely happens.”

Therapy Animals on the NY Subway

Because therapy animals provide comfort for the person with an emotional disability, they do not fall under the category of “Service Animal.” Therefore, they cannot ride the New York Subway without being adequately contained.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to ride the New York subway, ESA’s and Therapy animals must be in a carrier or pet “bag,” and must not disturb the other customers.

Emotional Support Dogs on the New York Subway

The New York Subway is attempting to crack down on people who claim their dog is there for service when it is actually an emotional support dog. There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to access rights for emotional support animals. Emotional support animals do NOT have access to subways and trains. 

According to the MTA, emotional support animals do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

You, Your Service Dog and the New York Subway

Below is an excerpt from the MTA (New York City Transit Authority) on the use of service animal identification cards for traveling with a certified service animal. NYC MTA Service Animal ID Cards


The MTA encourages the use of Service Animal ID Cards to avoid misunderstandings with MTA employees and people that need service animals. Click on the service dog ID below to order your service dog card today.

If you have a legitimate Service Dog, you are welcome on the New York Subway. However, your dog must be well-behaved and under your control at all times. A canine that attacks other people should not be used as a Service Dog, and you will be held responsible for its actions.

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