Rights of Assistance Dog Users
Persons with disabilities who use trained assistance dogs are recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as having special rights of access to public areas. The law provides this right in order to allow them to participate fully in all elements of public life, without discrimination due to the limitations that might occur without the support of their canine companion.
Every day, our clients meet people who express their interest in their assistance dog in a variety of ways. People want to learn about the dogs skills in supporting the client; they may simply want to take the opportunity to greet and pet the dog; and in some cases they may object to the dog’s presence for any number of reasons. Our training of clients at D4D addresses all types of potential interactions with the public, and provides the clients with information about their rights under the law, as well as how to deal with persons who are interested in their dog.
What the Public Needs to Know
We also want to help the public understand how they should interact with all assistance dog users and would provide these suggestions and information:
- Assistance dog users have a right to privacy about their disability. While it is interesting to learn about how the dogs support a person’s disability, legally an assistance dog user does not have to disclose his disability upon request.
- The assistance dog and its handler have a legal right of access to public accommodations. This includes access to businesses, grocery stores, restaurants, theatres, amusement parks, public transportation, taxis, etc, as long as the dog is properly controlled and not disruptive. Denial of access is considered discrimination due to the handler’s disability and is subject to penalties under theADA.
- Simple courtesy dictates that someone should not touch or interfere with an assistance dog without the permission of the handler. These dogs are working at all times and should not be distracted without the permission of the handler.
- Do not attempt to feed, tease or distract any assistance dog. Providing a treat may seem innocent, but assistance dogs are fed a specific diet and the consequences of strange food can be upsetting to their digestion and cause severe consequences. Teasing or distracting an assistance dog prevents them from doing the job they were trained to do, and may result in preventing the dog from alerting their handler.
- Keep your pet dog leashed and under your strict control around an assistance dog and do not attempt to introduce your pet to an assistance dog without permission of the handler. While most interactions between pets and assistance dogs are non-eventful, their have been instances of some dogs becoming aggressive and harming these working dogs. Assistance dogs are selected for their non-aggressive behaviors and will not defend themselves. The consequences of a incident which results in harm to an assistance dog or a disabled handler can subject the owner of the pet to civil and criminal penalties.
Additional Information & Resources
This is a 1-page summary from the Dept. of Justice describing service animals to businesses, including their responsibilities to serve persons with service animals. Keep a copy of this in your dog’s service jacket for reference if needed.
ADA Business Brief – Service Animals
A detailed summary of legal rights for persons with diabetes is available at:
Dept. of Justice Brochure
ADA Requirements & Business Primer
Dept. of Justice Brochure
ADA Requirements re: Service Animals
Dept. of Justice Brochure – July 2015
Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)
A Guide to Disability Rights Laws
Guide to Disability Rights Laws
California Legal Codes with ADA Penalties
California Service Dog Laws
Small Business and ADA Laws
A Primer for Small Business
ADA Service Dog Laws
Service Animal Laws
The information on this website is provided for informational purposes and should not be taken as legal advice. Any questions regarding your rights under law should be directed to your own attorney.