News from NW ADA Center – Idaho

There is still plenty of confusion over the subject of service animals. The most popular questions I get asked are:

What qualifies as a service animal? Only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA. They must be trained to do work or perform tasks for the person with a disability. Examples include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting a person when they are having a seizure, reminding a person to take medication, calming a person with PTSD during an attack, or performing other duties. Their work or task must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals. For clarification: an assistance animal falls under the broader definition of “service animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the Air Carrier Access Act. Some states may define a service animal more broadly than the ADA does.

Where are service animals allowed? Any business, government office, non-profits that serve the general public must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where the public is normally allowed to go. For example, in a hospital it would be allowed in patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, exam or waiting rooms. However, it may be inappropriate to be present in operating rooms or burn units where an animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment.

What rules apply to the service animal? They must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animals work. And the individual must maintain control of the animal j through voice, signal or other means. The animal must not pose a danger to other patrons of the business.

What can I ask the person with the service animal? When it is not obvious what service the animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: 1. Is the dog a service animal because of a disability?
and 2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, cannot require documentation or training card for the dog, or ask the dog to demonstrate its ability to perform the task.

What about allergies? Allergies or fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. If there are conflicts with persons allergic to dog dander, both people should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the facility.

When is it ok to remove a service animal from the premises? Staff cannot ask to remove the service animal unless the dog is out of control and the handler cannot control it or if the dog is not housebroken. When there is legitimate reason for the animal to be removed, staff must offer the person the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.

What about health codes in food establishments?
Restaurants must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.

Can a person with a service animal be charged an extra fee? People with disabilities cannot be treated less favorably than other patrons, or charged fees that are not charged other patrons without animals. If a business requires a deposit or fee for pets, it must be waived for service animals. Staff are not required to provide care or food for the service animal either.

For more information visit


Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator 

For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website:
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 711