Service Animals Allowed
If your business or organization is open to the public, you must always allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals with them into all areas of your facility where customers are normally allowed to go.
This is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). All kinds of businesses that serve the public must follow this law, including:
- Grocery stores
- Department stores
- Taxis and shuttles
- Hospitals and medical offices
- Health clubs
Jobs Performed by Service Animals
Service animals are not pets and are not “comfort” animals. They are working animals, individually trained to perform special tasks for people with disabilities. These animals:
- Guide people who are blind
- Alert people who are deaf
- Pull wheelchairs
- Alert and protect a person who is having a seizure
- Retrieve out-of-reach items and maintain balance for people with limited movement
- Perform other special tasks.
Local and State Health Codes
If your business sells or prepares food, you must allow service animals in all public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit live animals on the premises.
South Carolina’s food safety regulations require that live animals be kept away from food storage, preparation, display and serving areas but make an exception for service animals, police dogs, fish in aquariums, and edible fish, crustacean and shellfish.
Allergies or Fear of Animals
Allergies and fear of animals are generally not considered valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people with service animals.
IDs, Questions, Fees and Problem Situations
When a person with a disability brings a service animal into your business:
- You cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person’s disability.
- You may ask if the animal is a service animal or what tasks the animal has been trained to perform.
- You cannot charge the person extra fees (such as cleaning fees and pet deposits), isolate them from other patrons, or treat them less favorably than other patrons.
- However, if your business normally charges guests for damages that they cause - many hotels do this, for example - you are allowed to charge for any actual damages caused by a service animal.
- You cannot ask the person to remove his or her service animal from the premises unless:
- The animal is out of control and the owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or
- The animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
In these cases, you should give the person the option to obtain goods and services without having the animal on the premises.
- You are not required to provide care or food for a service animal or provide a special location for the animal to relieve itself.
If you violate ADA rules, you can be required to pay money damages and penalties.
Ask Questions, Request ADA Info in Foreign Languages
To learn more about service animals and your legal obligations and rights under the ADA, please visit ADA Business Connection or call the ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY). The ADA Information Line will provide you with foreign language translations of many ADA publications upon request.
In the photo, a service dog stands on hind legs to offer the canned drink in his mouth to a woman in a wheelchair. Businesses that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring service animals into all areas normally open to customers.