Commonly asked questions about assistance dogs in places of business
- Q: What are the laws that apply to my business in relation to assistance dogs?
A: Under the Disability Discrimination Act, privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theatres, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The Disability Discrimination Act requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their assistance dogs onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.
- Q: How can I tell if a dog is really an assistance dog and not a pet?
A: Some, but not all, assistance dogs wear special collars, vests or harnesses. If you are not certain that a dog is a assistance dog, you may ask the person who has the dog if it is an assistance dog required because of a disability and to see evidence that the dog is trained to the standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for an animal in a public place. Some, but not all, are certified and have an identification card, others may provide papers or training logs.
Please see our "How can I tell if an assistance dog is legitimate" page
for more details and to see examples of what an ID card might look like.
- Q: What must I do when an individual with an assistance dog comes to my business?
A: The assistance dog must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with an assistance dog may not be segregated from other customers.
- Q: I have always had a clearly posted "no pets" policy at my establishment. Do I still have to allow assistance dogs in?
A: Yes. An assistance dog is not a pet. The Disability Discrimination Act requires you to modify your "no pets" policy to allow the use of an assistance dog by a person with a disability. This does not mean you must abandon your "no pets" policy altogether but simply that you must make an exception to your general rule for assistance dogs.
- Q: The health department has told me that only a guide dog has to be admitted. If I follow those regulations, am I violating the Disability Discrimination Act?
A: Yes, if you refuse to admit any other type of assistance dog on the basis of local health department regulations or other state or local laws you are violating the Disability Discrimination Act. The Disability Discrimination Act provides greater protection for individuals with disabilities and so it takes priority over the local or state laws or regulations.
For more information, have a look at
the Relevant Laws page.
- Q: Can I charge a maintenance or cleaning fee for customers who bring assistance dogs into my business?
A: No. Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition to allowing an assistance dog to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets. However, a public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities if an assistance dog causes damage so long as it is the regular practice of the entity to charge non-disabled customers for the same types of damages.
For example, a hotel can charge a guest with a disability for the cost of repairing or cleaning furniture damaged by an assistance dog if it is the hotel's policy to charge when non-disabled guests cause such damage.
- Q: I operate a private taxicab and I don't want animals in my taxi; they smell, shed hair and sometimes have "accidents." Am I violating the Disability Discrimination Act if I refuse to pick up someone with an assistance dog?
A: Yes. Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to individuals with disabilities. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with disabilities and their assistance dogs than they charge to other persons for the same or equivalent service.
- Q: Am I responsible for the dog while the person with a disability is in my business?
A: No. The care or supervision of an assistance dog is solely the responsibility of his or her owner. You are not required to provide care or food or a special location for the dog.
- Q: What if an assistance dog barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?
A: You may exclude any animal, including an assistance dog, from your facility when that animal's behaviour poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any assistance dog that displays vicious behaviour towards other guests or customers may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular assistance dog is likely to behave based on your past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually. Although a public accommodation may exclude any assistance dog that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the assistance dog the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the assistance dog on the premises.