For some people with disabilities, service animals provide vital guidance, protection, and companionship. For this reason, both federal and Nevada law require places of public accommodation to allow service animals to enter their buildings and other facilities.
What’s a Place of Public Accommodation?
Any business or building that’s open to, or offers services to, the general public. Examples include hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, health clubs, and airports.
What Qualifies As a Service Animal?
Service animals are dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. For example, they might guide people who are blind, alert people who are deaf, pull a wheelchair, calm a person with PTSD, or alert and protect a person who is having a seizure.
A dog that only provides comfort or emotional support isn’t a service animal; it must be trained specifically to assist a person with a disability. Some people also now use miniature horses as service animals. In Nevada, a miniature horse must also be given access, unless it wouldn’t be reasonable to do so.
Where Must a Service Animal Be Allowed to Go?
Places of public accommodation must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of a facility where the public is normally allowed to go. However, it’s important to remember that service animals must always be under control. They have to be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless the device interferes with the animal’s work. Also, if a person’s disability prevents using a device, then the person must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
What Questions Can a Business Ask about a Service Animal?
Businesses can ask only two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability; and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. A business can’t ask about the person’s disability, require medical or training documentation, or require the dog to show an ability to perform its work.
There are many other issues that can arise involving service animals, but here are some of the most important points to keep in mind:
- Allergies or fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access to people with service animals;
- A business can ask that a dog be removed if (1) the dog is out of control; (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others; or (3) the dog is not housebroken;
- A business cannot isolate people with service animals from other patrons, treat them less favorably, or charge them fees not charged to others;
- A business doesn’t have to care for or feed a service animal.
Nevada Law Specifics
Nevada law also has some unique provisions regarding service animals.
Businesses must admit police dogs as well as service animals in training, including an animal that one of its employees is training to be a service animal. Businesses can’t require proof that an animal is a service animal.
Also, people with service animals can be held liable for damage caused by the animal, and a person who fraudulently misrepresents an animal as a service animal is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be assessed a fine up to $500.
Contact me if you believe a place of public accommodation has violated the law in regard to service animals, or if your business needs guidance on what is required regarding service animals. You can learn about possible remedies here.