What Are the Rules for Allowing a Service Dog in Your Business?

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires entities serving the public to allow service dogs to accompany individuals with disabilities into all areas that members of the public can enter, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Any size or breed of dog can be an emotional support or service dog, and the ADA prohibits segregating individuals and their service dogs from other patrons and attendees.

Businesses that do not allow pets must still admit service dogs with their owners, as federal law states that service dogs are not pets, explains the DOJ on its related website, ADA.gov. Employees may ask only two questions about a service dog: is it a service dog needed for a disability, and what service does it perform for the owner.

Even when state health codes forbid animals in businesses that prepare or serve food, the federal law prevails, and the establishment must allow service dogs to accompany their owners, advises the DOJ. Businesses cannot charge fees for the presence of service animals that they do not charge everyone else, but they can charge a person with a disability for damages caused by the person or by the service animal.

Service dogs must be leashed or otherwise under the control of the owner at all times, notes the DOJ. Employees may tell the owner to remove the service dog only when it is not housebroken or when the owner cannot control its behavior. In such instances, employees must offer to provide goods or services in the service dog's absence.