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Service Animals

A great deal of confusion has ensued in recent months over the topic of service animals. The Department of Justice issued revised ADA Title II (state and local government programs) and Title III (private businesses, a.k.a. places of public accommodation) regulations which took effect March 15, 2011. These regulations revise the definition of service animal and add additional provisions. (§35.104, §35.136, §36.104, §36.302). Additional federal laws have also been enacted that apply to different areas of regulation, for example airplane travel. Finally, most states have enacted additional laws allowing service animals and or assistance dogs.

This section is designed to provide a broad understanding of some of the federal regulations applying to service animals. Keep in mind that some of the other regulations summarized here apply only in certain situations, and may be more or less inclusive than the ADA requirements.


Per Department of Justice regulation, service animals are only dogs (and as a modification, miniature horses) in places of public accommodation, and public services, programs, and activities. Also under the ADA, any animal that has been trained to perform a specific task for an individual with a disability is allowed in any transportation service covered by Department of Transportation regulation. In workplace situations, the presence and use of an animal must be allowed if it serves as a reasonable accommodation and does not cause an undue hardship.


Any animal that serves any disability related need of an individual with a disability may be considered as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act regulations of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.


The Air Carrier Access Act allows service animals within the same parameters as the Department of Transportation’s ADA regulation.

State Laws

Laws allowing and protecting the use and presence of service animals vary from state to state.

For possible additional resources, please see our resources page or contact the Rocky Mountain ADA Center through our Technical Assistance Form or call us directly at 800-949-4232.

The Rocky Mountain ADA Center is not an enforcement agency, nor does it provide advocacy services. The information and materials provided by the center are intended solely as informal guidance and are not a determination of your legal rights or responsibilities. All communication with the center is strictly confidential.

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