Assistance Dogs in Public and in the Community
As a business owner, employee, or other member of the community, there are some important things you should be aware of regarding Hearing Dogs, Autism Assistance Dogs and other types of Assistance Dogs who have public access rights.
Assistance Dogs include Guide Dogs who are trained to help people who are visually impaired, Hearing Dogs who alert people who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds around them, and Service Dogs who are trained to help people with mobility problems and other physical disabilities.
According to the ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) and state laws, people with disabilities are allowed public access rights for their specially trained Assistance Dogs. This means that their Assistance Dogs are legally allowed to accompany the person into stores, restaurants, public transportation, and other places where dogs are not normally allowed.
Along with this right, the person and his/her Assistance Dog have the following responsibilities:
- The Assistance Dog must be well behaved and under control, on leash or harness.
- The Assistance Dog must be well groomed.
- The person is responsible for cleaning up after the Assistance Dog and for any damage the dog may do.
- The Assistance Dog must be trained to perform one or more tasks for the person to help with the person’s disability.
You, as a business owner, employee, or member of the community, may ask the person the following questions if you think there is a need to verify that this is truly an Assistance Dog:
- Is that your pet?
- If the person says, “No, it is my Assistance Dog (Service Dog, Hearing Dog, Guide Dog),” You may then ask, “What does the dog do for you?”
In order to have public access rights, the dog must be trained to perform a physical skill.
You may NOT legally ask the person what his/her disability is or to show proof of disability or proof of where the dog was trained.
Here are a few questions you may be wondering about:
- What must I do when an individual with an Assistance Dog comes into my business? You must permit the dog to accompany the person to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go.
- If I have a “no pets” policy clearly posted at my business, do I still have to allow an Assistance Dog? Yes, an Assistance Dog is NOT a pet. The ADA requires you to modify your “no pets” policy to allow the use of an Assistance Dog by a person with a disability.
- Can I charge maintenance or cleaning fees for customers who have an Assistance Dog? No, neither a deposit nor surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition of allowing an Assistance Dog to accompany the person, even if deposits are routinely required for pets. However, if the animal causes any damage, you may charge the customer for the damage as long as it is the regular practice of the business to charge other customers for the same types of damage.
- Am I responsible for the dog while the person with a disability is in my business? No, the care and supervision of the Assistance Dog is the sole responsibility of his/her owner.
- What if the Assistance Dog barks, growls, or otherwise is disruptive or seems out of control? You may exclude any Assistance Dog from your facility when that animal’s behavior poses a threat to the health and safety of others. Since actual Assistance Dogs are very well trained, this is seldom a problem.
At Dogs for Better Lives, we provide all of our teams with identification. The person is given an ID card with pictures of the dog and person and information about Assistance Dogs. Hearing Dogs wear a blaze orange collar, leash, and vest-all with the words “Hearing Dog” prominently displayed on them. Autism Assistance Dogs wear blue and Program Assistance Dogs wear forest green vests with identification. While these are not legally required, we encourage people to use them so that it is easier for people to identify the dog as a legitimate Assistance Dog.