ADA Coordinator Blog Series: December 2018


This blog is comprised of resources and articles generated to further educate and support ADA coordinators. Each month, our Advocacy Program staff will cover disability topics that impact our community and information about local trainings.

If you have a suggestion for a future blog post, please share here.

The Department of Justice's ADA regulations define a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. In certain situations, a service animal may also be a miniature horse.

Note: Ohio Administrative Code § 4112-5-02, which defines animal assistants, does not limit protections solely to animal assistants that are dogs. It defines an "animal assistant" as "any animal which aids" a person with a disability, which may include a dog which alerts a person with a hearing impairment to sounds, a dog which guides a person with a visual impairment, or a monkey which collects or retrieves items for a person with a mobility impairment. Thus, if an individual needs a service animal other than a dog in a place of public accommodation, he or she should be protected by this provision of Ohio law.

  • Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Examples include when a dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person’s wheelchair. You also may not:

  • ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability
  • require proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal
  • require the animal to wear an identifying vest or tag
  • ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the task or work

Under the ADA, it is training that distinguishes a service animal from other animals. Some service animals may be professionally trained; others may have been trained by their owners. However, the task that the service animal is trained to do must be directly related to the owner’s disability.

The handler is responsible for the care and supervision of his or her service animal. If a service animal behaves in an unacceptable way and the person with a disability does not control the animal, a business or other entity has the right to ask that the dog be removed. A business also has the right to deny access to a dog that disrupts their business or poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. For example, if a service dog barks repeatedly or growls at customers, it could be asked to leave.

While service animals in-training are not specifically addressed in the ADA, some state laws may afford service animals in-training the same protections as service animals that have completed their training.

While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Even though some states have laws defining therapy animals, these animals are not limited to working with people with disabilities and therefore are not covered by federal laws protecting the use of service animals. Therapy animals provide people with therapeutic contact, usually in a clinical setting, to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning.

* Of note, in the case with the emotional support peacock and squirrel, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) has differing regulations from the ADA on Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals, which they are currently in the process of reviewing. Currently, the ACAA states, “a service animal is any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support. Documentation may be required of passengers needing to travel with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal.”

The Department of Transportation notes that a wide variety of service animals are permitted in the cabin portion of the aircraft flying to and within the United States; however, most service animals tend to be dogs and cats. Airlines may exclude animals that:

  • Are too large or heavy to be accommodated in the cabin;
  • Pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others;
  • Cause a significant disruption of cabin service; or
  • Are prohibited from entering a foreign country.

Note: Airlines are never required to accept snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders, and spiders.

DOJ ADA Information Line

800-514-0301 (voice);
800-514-0383 (TTY)

Great Lakes ADA Center Information Line
800-949-4232 (V/TTY) M-F 8:00am-5:00pm CT
312-413-1407 (V/TTY) M-F 8:00am-5:00pm CT
312-767-0377 (Video Phone) M-F 8:00am-5:00pm CT