Skip to main content

Is it okay if someone who has a service dog comes into your business? It should be fine, right? Many businesses allow dogs, one of the most popular pets. There are a few companies like Amazon, for example, that allow workers to bring their dogs to work with them.  Service dogs are allowed on most flights and in some establishments, they don’t even have to be an official “service animal.”

Are dogs welcome everywhere these days?

Dogs are not automatically allowed in every business. For instance, food establishments often forbid dogs to enter unless they have the official paperwork for being a service animal. It can get complicated depending on the local and state laws. Some regions have laws stating an owner claiming their pet is a service animal must show the official paperwork to prove it. Other areas do not have such laws, but animals are not forbidden per local laws. You may also need to check with your business insurance provider to see if they have any restrictions, or if they will cover animals in your business.

Are all Service Animals the Same?

service dog

Image by CLVann from Pixabay

The discussion around service animals can be a bit confusing. Service dogs and emotional support animals are two different classifications. The law defines emotional support animals as pertaining to comfort or being therapeutic. Service dogs are highly trained to perform specific tasks related to their owner’s disability. A guide dog, for instance, works with an individual who is visually impaired. Veterans often require service dogs that are trained to help them with PTSD.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, a service animal is allowed to accompany their owner to any establishment, even if the business has a “no pet” policy.  According to the law, service animals are not pets. A service animal takes more than a prescription from a doctor, they go through extensive training to be able to provide specific tasks for their person.

On the other hand, support animals do not require any specialized training. They offer a psychological benefit to their owners. These animals are not covered under federal law. An emotional support animal is not considered a service animal.

Can’t a Business Owner Just Ask for Paperwork?

Business owners cannot ask to see paperwork for service animals. You can ask the pet owner if they are disabled. You cannot ask if their disability is apparent, such as blindness. And you cannot ask what their disability is. Business owners can ask what tasks the service animal is trained to perform, but cannot ask if the pet can demonstrate their skills.

Does the Business Owner Have any Rights?

dog outside a restaurant

Image by Sklorg from Pixabay

You do have the right to deny access to any animal, including service animals, that wreak havoc in your establishment. If the owner cannot control the animal, you can ask them to leave, especially if they pose a danger to property or personal safety.

Should Small Business Owners Allow Dogs?

It is your responsibility as a small business owner to be familiar with your local and state laws as they pertain to service dogs. Your state’s official website should have an ADA section that can help you become familiar with applicable laws. Maybe you aren’t considering allowing employees to bring their dogs to work with them unless they require a service animal. The law states, In those cases, per the law, businesses must accommodate service dogs. When it comes to allowing employees to bring dogs to work, make sure to have conversations with your employees about guidelines and clearly stated rules. Also, make sure to modify them when needed and appropriate. Maybe start by trying a test period. Then, if all goes well, why not bring a little happiness into your workspace?