The ADA and Pets

From “Ask Kit!”:

Q: How does the disability law and pet policies for disable persons work? Can you have a therapy dog or do you have to be blind? Are there provisions and modifications for this? Thank you

A: I don’t know what a “therapy dog” is, but I presume it’s similar to a service dog, as used by anyone with a disability. My understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is that if you have a disability, you are allowed a service dog to help you. Any where. Any time. Period.

Just as disabilities vary, so do service animals. I have just been writing about the ADA in Innfo (, my email newsletter. What I say in the articles is you can not deny a disabled person access to their service animal. Even if you have a “no pets” policy, you can’t deny a service animal.

The law is very clear about this aspect of service animals and disabilities.

If you have further questions, please ask. There may be others who have input.

4 thoughts on “The ADA and Pets”

  1. The PA Lodging and Tourism Association recently clarified a point of concern among the membership. Innkeepers may not prohibit animals from our properties if the animal in question is an escort for a handicapped individual. We are not allowed to ask for proof that this animals is a certified escort animal. The animal in question must be allowed access to all areas of the facility that guests normally have access to. The handicapped access laws supercede the food safety code in Pennsylvania.
    Handicapped guests are still liable for any damage caused by their escort animals. I am given to understand that both the guest and the escort animal may be evicted from the premises under the Innkeeper rights act if certain extenuating circumstances are met:
    1) Inability to pay for services.
    2) The person constitutes a potential physical threat.
    3) The person is disorderly.
    4) The person is entering the facility for the purpose of unlawful activity i.e. drug usage, drug dealing, prositution, etc.
    5) The person has exceeded the number of guests allowed in a given room i.e. Mr. Smith books a room for two people and you subsequently find out that four extra people have brought sleeping bags and plan to sleep on the floor of Mr. Smith’s room.
    With this being said, it is also my understanding that while we may ask if an animal is a service or assistance animal required because of a disability, WE MAY NOT require documentation such as special ID cards or proof of certification for the animal or ask about the specific nature of a person’s disability, e.g. “Are you blind?” or “Are you under a physician’s care for this?” To answer your question, my guess is that asking such a question would be considered discriminatory.
    Guests with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other guests or treated less favorably than other guests.
    This law stems from the 1990 Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Pennsylvania Lodging and Tourism Association has informed all members that Federal law always supercedes state law. Hence – if you have licensed restaurant that prohibits pets from the premises, this law does not apply to escort animals.
    According to the ADA, “Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities-such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.” Laws that pertain to “pets” do not therefore apply to escort animals.
    Escort animals are more than just guide dogs for the blind or hearing dogs for the deaf. Escort animals may also be “emotional support” animals who help their humans by ameliorating the symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder by providing therapeutic nurture and support.
    In a law related to the 1990 American with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act protect the right of people with disabilities to keep emotional support animals, even when a landlord’s policy explicitly prohibits pets.
    Discrimination under the Federal Housing Authority, FHA, includes “a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford [a person with a disability] an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” 42 U.S.C. ยง 3604(f)(3)(B)
    Please note that I am not an attorney. If you have serious concerns about ADA compliance, you should really consult a business attorney in your area.
    Inn at Elizabethville

  2. And I have only one minor, but important, comment to make about your post. The “proper” term for people with disabilities is “disabled”, not “handicapped”. Some people with disabilities even prefer the term “differently abled” because they don’t see themselves as having a disability.
    We all want to be treated with respect. I think that’s a lot of what the ADA laws are seeking.

  3. Kit Cassingham wrote:
    The “proper” term for people with disabilities is “disabled”, not “handicapped”.

    No disrespect was intended. I wasn’t aware of this PC term.
    The term “handicapped” still appears to be in common usage.
    Although PENNDOT, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, issues disabled placards for motorists who have disabled tags, state law such as 217.4. Reserved parking signs or markings, still refers to disabled individuals as “handicapped persons.”
    Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, PA as well as Robert Morris University in Pittsburg, Penn State, York, and Penn State, Lehigh Valley all refer to disabled parking as “handicapped parking.”
    If I erred in using a non-PC term, it’s because this term still appears to be in common usage.
    Again – no disrespect was intended.

  4. Lots of signage is outdated, but as innkeepers we can be more sensitive to our guests needs than bureaucratic signs. :~)
    This blog/forum is intended to help people learn in a safe, comfortable environment. You sure don’t want your guests correcting your terminology!

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