ADA Service Dog Regulations ADA Service Dog Regulations - SitStay

ADA Service Dog Regulations

a boxer wearing an orange service dog vest

Service dogs are well-trained animals that provide a variety of services. Each service dog is trained to provide a service to someone with a disability, allowing them to live their everyday life without as much trouble. Since these animals are so vital to normal life for so many people, they are given special permissions to do things that a pet cannot. However, with these permissions come restrictions. To ensure that service dogs are being properly used, they are subject to certain regulations. ADA service dog regulations are the rules that allow these special circumstances to happen, these are the regulations that govern what a service animal is, what it does, and what is expected of it.

How Does The ADA Define a Disability?

The special permissions of service dogs rest on their role as helping those with disabilities. This means that ADA service dog regulations are dependent on the disability of those their helping and what is defined as a disability. This is how a service dog’s role is decided.

The ADA defines a disability as a mental or physical impairment that limits at least one part of their life. This definition can cover a wide variety of individuals with different needs for a service animal. This allows dogs with a lot of different functions to be classified as a service dog.

What is a Service Dog?

Under ADA regulations, a service animal is a dog that has been specifically trained to undertake a task for someone with a disability. Only dogs are allowed to be service animals, with the exception of some miniature horses.

The task that they’re performing has to be directly related to the disability. These are some examples of what this task could be:

  • Alerting the Deaf: A service dog can provide a service to the deaf by alerting them to certain noises. This makes it much easier for them to communicate.
  • Guarding the Blind: Service dogs can help protect the blind when walking around. This is a really important task and one that most people probably see service dogs performing the most.
  • Calming Someone With PTSD: A service dog can be used to calm someone with PTSD in situations where they will need calming. This is a role for a service dog that often isn’t visible, but it is still an important job.
  • Reminding People to Take Medicine: A service dog can remind disabled people when they need to take medication if they struggle to do this themselves.
  • Protecting Someone Experiencing a Seizure: Epilepsy dogs can alert their handlers when a seizure is likely. This gives them time to find help and take precautions.

These Animals Are Workers, Not Pets

Under ADA Service Dog regulations, they are workers and not pets. This distinction is very important. By classifying them as pets, they are able to have permissions that normal pets do not. It also reflects its purpose. They provide a service and fulfill a task, rather than just being a pet. This means some animals that might perform a service aren’t actually classified as service animals.

Animals That are for Emotional Support Are Not Included in the Category of ‘Service Dog’

Emotional Support animals might provide a service, but they are not service dogs. Under the ADA service dog regulations, they aren't considered to be service animals. These animals don't fit the definition above, so they are classified as pets. This means they don’t have the same permissions or restrictions as service animals.

Where Can You Take a Service Dog?

large brown guide log laying in the grass wearing a red vest that says

One of the main reasons for regulations on service dogs is that they can go into places that pets can't go. This is essential for them performing their function for their handler. This can even include places that have hard rules against pets like restaurants. Since this is a big exception to normal laws and rules, there are regulations on where they can go.  

Businesses, Government buildings, and Non-Profit Organizations

Under ADA service dog regulations, they are allowed in all of these places. This is to allow the service animal to assist their handler and give access to all of these places. This prevents someone with a disability being discriminated against because of their service animal. However, they are still governed by some regulations and requirements in these places.

Business Can Ask if the Dog is a Service Animal and What Function They Perform

Most businesses do allow service dogs on their premises. However, service dogs are often performing an unseen service and unidentifiable compared with a pet. In these cases, the staff at a business are allowed to ask two questions.

They are allowed to ask if the dog is required for a disability, and what service they provided. Businesses cannot ask what disability the handler needs a dog for.

Requirements for a Service Dog and Their Handler

Since service dogs can go places that pets can't, there are some rules about how they have to act. This stops their presence from becoming a problem.

Dogs Must Be Harnessed, Leashed, or Tethered

Under ADA service dog regulations, dogs must be harnessed or leashed. This keeps them under control and helps to ensure that they are performing their service. This requirement shouldn’t interfere with a service dog's task.


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Service Animal Harnesses, Identification, and Leashes

Service dogs don’t have to feature identification, but it makes things a lot easier. Harnesses and identification can make a service dog getting around places easier by avoiding questions and showing that the dog is well under control and conforming to ADA regulations. This can mean people not bothering a service dog while it is working offering public announcement that the dog is a working dog.


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Service Dog Must Be Under Control at all Times

A service dog has to be under control at all times to be allowed in places that pets cannot. This is the most important requirement of ADA service dog regulations.

The service dog can be removed from premises if the handler is failing to comply with these rules. Being under control helps the service animal to not present a problem in these premises. Specifically, it means that any problems that may occur from letting pets inside aren’t present when a service dog is around. The service dog also has to be housebroken in these premises. These are very basic requirements that all service dogs will easily meet after their training.

Handler’s Responsibility to Keep the Dog ADA Compliant

It is the handler’s responsibility to make sure that their service dog complies with these ADA regulations. If a service dog fails to comply with these, they will not be able to have the special permissions that service dogs are granted. These are relatively minor constraints, and all service dogs should be able to meet them.


The ADA requirements for service dogs mainly exist to ensure that these rules are not exploited. They allow service animals that are performing a genuine service to have more freedom and make life easier for their handlers. The restrictions on service animals are easily met by all properly trained service animals, which should make the process easier and enable them to help their handlers without much fuss.


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Meet The Author

Author Jordan Ashley

Jordan Ashley

Jordan is an experienced author who enjoys writing about all things dogs. He loves all animals and when he is not working he spends his time curled up with his two dogs playing video games and maybe enjoying a craft beer.