It has come to my attention that persons with disabilities who are accompanied by a service dog are occasionally being denied entry into businesses open to the public.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is allowed to go.
“Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.” Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA, www.ADA.gov.
Emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals are not considered service animals under the ADA; however, the ADA does make a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. www.ADA.gov.
When it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, a covered entity’s employees may ask only two specific questions:
(1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
(2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability. www.ADA.gov.
For more information, go to the ADA website: www.ADA.gov or contact the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc. at (670) 235-7273/7274.
Jeanne H. Rayphand
Legal counsel, Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc.