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Service Animals and Public Accommodation

Service Animals, the ADA and Your Business

Employers encounter a wide variety of different issues and experiences on a day to day basis in their stores. While you may not be able to necessarily predict what might happen, employers should educate themselves and their employees to adequately prepare for each situation. One emerging issue business owners are experiencing today is with respect to service animals.

Service animals are a federally regulated entity that falls under the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) jurisdiction. In 2010 (and implemented in March of 2011), the DOJ provided guidance on service animals which are recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  In addition to ADA, the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) and the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) speak to and apply to service animals in Ohio. They are defined as a dog, or in select cases, a miniature horse that are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability”.

The question arises on how business owners are to properly interact with service animals and their owners as well as fellow customers. First, business owners should be mindful that the animal is not required to wear a vest and it is illegal to ask the owner to present a form or a type of certification that the animal is indeed a service animal. However, there are specific questions the business can ask:

1.” Is your animal required because of a disability?”
2. “What work or task is your animal trained to do for your disability?”

Employers and employees CANNOT ask:
1. “What is your disability?”
2. “Do you have proof that your animal is licensed as a service animal?”

In an instance where the service animal starts eating food off the ground or begins disrupting the safety of the store, then the animal itself can be removed – not the owner.

Click here for an up-to-date Service Animal presentation, courtesy of FMI. FMI also conducted a survey of Service Animals in stores and the results can be found here

For more information on service animals and the specific rules, we recommend reading the ADA guidelines on the issue or the Disability Rights Ohio information. For an updated ADA FAQ, click here. 

Service Animals and Public Access Fact Sheet