Can All Service Animals Eat in a Restaurant?

You have a service animal who’s a big part of your everyday life. You haven’t gone to a restaurant in a long time, but tonight, you wanted to treat yourself and your loved ones to some fine dining. Are you allowed to bring a service animal with you? Can they eat in the restaurant?

Those who have a service animal are allowed entry into a restaurant with the animal in tow. However, you cannot feed your service animal, nor should you expect the restaurant staff to do it. That’s outside of the realm of the ADA rules.

Today’s article will investigate the kinds of restaurant services a person with a service animal can utilize. If you have a service animal, you need to know this information before you head out to eat!

The Types of Service Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA was established in 1990. The ADA sets the rules on service animals and their allowances. 

Per their website, the ADA states that service animals include “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” 

Here are the types of service animals.

Seizure Alert Dogs

A seizure alert service dog is trained to detect when a person might have a seizure. They can also act during the seizure and afterward. 

For example, a seizure alert dog can transport seizure medication within the house to the person who needs it as their seizure ends. The dog could apply deep pressure stimulation, which may be able to reduce the duration of the seizure.

If a person has a seizure in a dangerous location, a seizure alert dog can physically pull and move the person away from that locale. The dog can also find a source of help or even connect with emergency services via their K-9 alert phone.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Although service animals are technically not companions, a psychiatric service dog can act in that capacity. The dog aids those with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD as well as anxiety and/or depression.

Through lots of highly specialized training, a psychiatric service dog can determine when a person might be about to experience symptoms associated with PTSD, depression, and/or anxiety. Those symptoms usually include a flashback or a panic attack.

Then the dog jumps into action to alleviate the severity of these symptoms.

Mobility Assistance Dogs

Those with cerebral palsy, severe arthritis, muscular dystrophy, brain injuries, and/or spinal cord injuries might utilize a mobility assistance dog. 

The dog can do the things that a person with the above conditions or diseases necessarily cannot, such as turn on a light, open a door, or pick up items.

Mobility assistance dogs are usually larger canines that are ready to help a person if they struggle with their balance. The dog will typically have a harness as well. 

Some mobility assistance dogs are even trained to help those who are confined to a wheelchair. These dogs can guide a person to or from a bathtub, bed, or chair. The dog can also pull around a person in a wheelchair via a harness.

Hearing Dogs

A hearing dog is an everyday assistant to those who are either already deaf or have a difficult time hearing. 

The dog will act as the person’s ears, listening for cues and then determining if they should get their person away from the noise or closer to a source of the sound.

For example, the dog is trained to respond to their person’s name as well as sounds like an alarm clock, a phone, knocking at the door, or a fire alarm.

Guide Dogs

Of all the types of service dogs, guide dogs are the most known. 

A guide dog is trained to assist the blind or those with severe vision issues. The dog acts as a guide for the blind or vision-impaired.

Guide dogs are trained to disobey certain commands. This may sound like a bad thing, but it isn’t. 

If a blind person tells the dog to cross the street when there’s a green light and cars are whizzing past, a dog that listened would endanger both themselves and the person they’re supposed to protect. 

The dog will instead judge the situation and make decisions from there. 

Diabetic Alert Dogs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, as of 2022, over 130 million adults in the United States have diabetes. 

For those whose diabetes could be deadly, a diabetic service dog is a good idea. The dog can remind their person to test their blood sugar or even indicate to others that their person needs medical help. 

In a worst-case scenario, a diabetic alert dog can contact 911 or other emergency services using their K-9 alert phone.

Autism Service Dogs

An autism support dog is usually the assistant of children but can help adults with autism as well. 

Since those with autism, may struggle to make friends, an autism service dog can make that easier. The dog can also monitor children so that if an autistic child runs away, someone is aware of it.

Allergy Detection Dogs

The last type of service animal is an allergy detection dog. For those with severe allergies, an allergy detection dog will be able to gauge for the person which allergens linger in any given situation, especially food allergies.

The dog can sniff out allergens in most instances.

Can All Service Animals Eat in a Restaurant?

Let’s go back to the scenario from the intro. You’re interested in going out to eat at a restaurant tonight. Maybe you’ll bring some friends or family, but you most certainly want to bring your service dog.

After all, you don’t go anywhere without them.

The ADA does say in its policy on service animals that “establishments that sell or prepare food must generally allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.”

This is something we talked about in a recent post on the blog. The ADA rules permit service dogs in public parts of a restaurant such as the lobby and the dining room. 

Can you feed your dog while you’re there?

Technically, you could, but you shouldn’t. 

The ADA–while it goes into a lot of detail about where service animals are allowed versus disallowed–does not mention anything about feeding your service animal at a restaurant or other dining establishment.

You certainly should not go to a restaurant expecting them to have a menu for your service animal. If you fed your service dog people food from your plate, the owner or manager of the restaurant could kick you out.

This isn’t discrimination since they aren’t sending you away due to the presence of your service dog. Rather, you’re being ejected for feeding the service animal.

Now, we must stress that this varies on a case by case basis. Some restaurants may allow you to feed a service dog, but many more will not because it’s unsanitary. 

The dog could fall ill or have an accident in the dining room, which would drive away business for that restaurant.

If you really want to have your service animal eat with you at the restaurant, then we would recommend calling ahead. Mention that you have a service animal and ask the waiter on the phone if you could feed them at the restaurant.

If you have permission, then have a fun time dining! 

What if you’re turned down? Well in that case, please feed your service animal before you go out to eat. 

What If a Restaurant Turns You Away for Bringing a Service Animal?

Now, a restaurant is in its right to decline to feed a service animal on its premises. That said, you should not be barred entry into the restaurant if you have a service animal.

We must reiterate the ADA quote from the section before. The ADA mandates that even if state health codes usually prohibit the presence of animals on the premises that a service animal is allowed.

After all, a service dog is usually not a companion animal. They’re not classified as pets either. The dog is a working canine that’s doing a job.

The ADA states that “allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.” 

You must be allowed into the restaurant with your service dog, or the restaurant is discriminating against you. This could result in bad publicity for the restaurant and possibly a lawsuit if you decided to file one. 

That being said, as we talked about in another recent blog post, just because you can bring your service animal to a restaurant does not mean the dog can run rampant. You must keep your dog leashed up and under control.

Should your service animal lose control or make messes in the restaurant, then the establishment can ask you to leave, says the ADA. 

You’re still allowed back into the restaurant, but your service animal would not be, at least not at this time. 

Conclusion

Service animals like diabetic alert dogs, guide dogs, hearing dogs, seizure alert dogs, and mobility assistance dogs are allowed into a restaurant despite what local health codes might usually mandate.

You cannot feed your dog though unless the restaurant allows it. If the restaurant does not permit that behavior, then be sure to feed your dog before or after you go out!

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