Can a Restaurant Disallow Service Dogs? The Laws Explained

Service dogs are dogs trained to perform tasks for someone with a disability. They are highly behaved, quiet, and can act in the blink of an eye to save their handler’s life. However, with many people trying to pass off their pets as service dogs to bring them to a restaurant, more and more problems are arising. So, can a restaurant not allow service dogs to enter?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal to discriminate against someone with a disability who needs their service dog by refusing entrance to a legitimate service dog team, but restaurants still have some rights.

Learn about the rights and abilities of restaurants when it comes to service dogs. We’ll delve into all of the service dog laws and tell you when you can refuse service to a service animal.

What Qualifies as a Service Animal? 

Under the ADA, service animals are dogs or mini horses specially trained by a program, by their owner, or by a professional trainer. Training laws vary by state, and in some states, animals other than a dog or mini horse are permitted to be service animals while within their home state. 

For a dog to be a service dog, it must: 

  • Perform one or more tasks that aid in the disability of its handler 

  • Be well-trained in obedience, heeling, and commands 

Now, let’s go into some situations where it’s permitted to ask a service dog team to leave the premises.

When Can a Restaurant Kick Out a Service Dog? 

Even though it is illegal to deny access to a service dog without reason entirely, you still have rights as a business owner. Unfortunately, many people take advantage of the system and try to pass their dog off as a legitimate service dog when it’s not one. Here’s what you can do. 

First, you should ask every service dog team the two legally acceptable questions outlined by the ADA: 

  1. Is this dog a service dog that is task-trained to aid in your disability?

  2. What tasks does this dog perform? 

Depending on the answers of the handler, you might get an idea of whether or not the dog is actually a service dog. Here are some everyday situations where it’s okay not to allow a service dog into your establishment.

The Dog Is a Pet or ESA 

If the dog is a pet or an emotional support animal, you’re legally within your right to ask the owner to take the dog outside. Emotional Support Animals or ESAs are not covered under the ADA. 

Pets are also not covered under any protection laws. If your restaurant is pet-friendly, you can direct the ESA or pet to a pet-friendly eating area. 

The Dog Is Misbehaved 

Even if the dog is task-trained and is in your restaurant assisting a handler with a disability, it can be removed for the following reasons: 

  1. The dog is barking, yelping, or whining loudly

  2. The dog is acting aggressive, lunging, or biting anyone in the restaurant

  3. The dog is sitting in the booth or on the chair, and the owner won’t put it down 

  4. The dog is sitting in aisles and won’t move out of the way

  5. The dog is eating scraps or sniffing around 

  6. The dog is causing a food-safety issue to the establishment by its behavior (simply existing in a restaurant doesn’t qualify for this) 

  7. The dog is not potty trained 

  8. The dog is distracted by other service dogs and trying to play 

All actual service dogs should be potty trained, have obedience training, and be able to sit tucked underneath a table unless performing a task for their handler. Additionally, they should ignore other dogs that enter the restaurant or distractions such as small children. 

Some service dogs may have a task that involves barking, but it should only be brief, and it should be obvious what’s happening.

Can a Restaurant Refuse Service to All Service Dogs? 

Any business that operates as a public service, such as hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, stores, malls, and parks, must allow entry to service dogs and their handlers. It may seem unfair at times, but it’s actually more just. 

If a person who can’t walk isn’t allowed to have their wheelchair, they won’t be able to enter your restaurant and eat like someone without a wheelchair could do. If someone who needs oxygen was not given their oxygen tank while they ate, they could have huge complications. 

It’s the same with a service dog. Service dogs should be thought of as medical equipment. Many tasks that they perform can save lives, and a disabled person should not have to worry about being without their medical equipment for a family meal.

Common Misconceptions About Service Dogs 

There are a few common misconceptions about service dogs that may prompt an owner of a restaurant to want to kick out the dog. Here are a few and why they’re wrong. 

Psychiatric Service Dogs Are Emotional Support Animals: Wrong 

Service dogs can work for those with psychiatric disabilities such as:

  • Autism

  • Depression 

  • PTSD 

  • Anxiety

Don’t kick out a dog if the owner tells you it performs tasks for a psychiatric disability. This fact doesn’t make it an emotional support animal. 

Emotional Support Animals: Animals of any type that provide emotional comfort or support but are not formally trained as service dogs and do not provide any tasks.

Service Dogs Require Identification: Wrong 

Service dogs do not have to carry identification. Some service dog teams will have an identification card from the program that provided the dog. However, since not every service dog comes from a program, this is not federally mandated in any way. 

Service Dogs Should Be a Certain Breed: Wrong

Service dogs can be of any breed, size, color, or weight. You may see tiny chihuahuas that provide diabetic alert tasks. You may also see huge Great Dane service dogs that provide mobility tasks. 

Service Dogs Need to Wear a Vest or Identification: Wrong

Although most teams wear a service dog vest, you cannot kick a dog out of your restaurant for simply not wearing identification. Some dogs work best when having a free range of movement. Some handlers also prefer not to spend money on costly equipment. 

However, a vest can be a helpful sign to show the people around that the dog is working, so they shouldn’t come up to the dog and distract it.  

Service Dogs Only Work As Guide Dogs: Wrong 

Although guide dogs are a prevalent type of service dog, they are not the only type. Guide dogs are often paid for through a program, and these programs don’t always have the resources available to offer other types of dogs. 

For this reason, sometimes owners themselves will train their dog with the help of a professional trainer. This training is entirely legal.

You Should Kick Service Dogs Out if Someone Is Allergic: Wrong  

If someone in the restaurant has an allergy to dogs, both the service dog handler and the person with the allergy are considered “disabled” in this situation. The restaurant must do its best to accommodate them both

One solution is moving them to separate areas of the restaurant where the allergy won’t be a problem and asking the service dog handler to clean up any pet hair after eating.  

Conclusion 

When it comes to disallowing service dogs, public restaurants are not allowed. However, in the case of untrained dogs, emotional support animals, pets, and safety hazards, you can remove a service dog from the premises. 

It can be stressful knowing your rights as a business. That’s why, with this guide, you’ll be sure of what to do and who can enter, so you can rest easy knowing the laws.

 

Sources Used

https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

https://adata.org/guide/service-animals-and-emotional-support-animals

https://servicedogtraininginstitute.ca/22-train-your-own-service-dog/157-comparison-of-owner-trained-vs-program-trained-service-dogs

https://adata.org/service-animal-resource-hub/misconceptions

https://adata.org/guide/service-animals-and-emotional-support-animals#:~:text=While%20Emotional%20Support%20Animals%20or,service%20animals%20under%20the%20ADA.

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