When Your Service Dog is Refused Entry

Talking about service dogs:
On a plane returning from Los Angeles, I had to listen to a 25 to 30-something fellow in the seat behind me loudly proclaiming his expertise on a variety of subjects along with an overview of his fabulously wealthy lifestyle. He had, for example, three mansions (he was renovating the one he had in London because it wasn’t up to his taste), a 100 ft yacht, a top-of-the-line Tesla, and so forth.


I tried to close my ears until I suddenly heard the words “service dog.”  More about this gentleman at the close of this post.

I will not bother to relate the entirely erroneous information he prattled to his neighbor (poor lady) for the entire two and a half-hour flight, but it does seem like it might be time to review, once again, the federal regulations for service dogs.

By law, guide, hearing and service dogs are permitted to accompany their disabled owner everywhere members of the public are allowed, but there are a few common-sense exceptions. For example, a member of the public would be permitted in the dining area of a restaurant, but not in the kitchen; in the public areas of a hospital but not in an operating room. The general application of this regulation is referred to as “public access.”

However, just because there are specific laws covering access for service dogs, doesn’t mean every establishment is familiar with them. It also doesn’t mean everyone will be understanding and receptive to the presence of your canine assistant. So, what do you do when your service dog is refused entry?

The United States Department of Justice’s American Disabilities Act (ADA) states that “Businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go.” The American Disabilities Act also states that it, “applies to businesses open to the public, including restaurants.” This is known as Public Accommodation.

A service dog is not a pet. Under ADA, your service dog may accompany you wherever you live, visit, do business, or wherever you go and without paying pet fees of any kind. The actual law (28 C.F.R. §36.104) clarifies this as “anywhere the public is invited or permitted.” This includes:

*    Rented Residences such as apartments, condos, trailers, or houses
*    Public transportation including planes, trains, and buses
*    Hotels/Motels/Bed and Breakfast Facilities/Resorts
*    Restaurants
*    Stores, retail and grocery
*    Theaters
*    Concert halls
*    Schools
*    Medical Facilities – Doctor offices and hospitals
*    Parks
*    Museums
*    Libraries
*    Golf courses
*    Bowling alleys
*    Convention Centers

According to the ADA, a service dog must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered unless these devices interfere with the service dog’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. If that is the case, the person with the disability must maintain control of the dog through voice commands, signals or other controls.

Under the ADA, a place of business is not allowed to refuse service to someone because of the service dog, and only two questions are allowed:

(1) is the dog a service animal required because you have a disability?
(2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Any questions beyond that, for instance inquiring about a specific disability, requiring medical proof or a specific ID card or training document, is not in compliance with the law.

There are, however, situations where a person may be legitimately asked to remove a service dog from the premises if, for example: the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.

If you are refused entry, the first thing to remember is to remain calm and respectful. Chances are you are not being treated fairly or with respect, but don’t let that promote a knee-jerk reaction. There is no need to create any more of a scene than the business owner has already started. It’s best to remain courteous, not angry or defensive.

Simply state what the law allows. Often, you will be surprised to discover how little many business owners know about ADA laws in regards to service dogs. Some service dog handlers carry a pamphlet or printed document that spells out the details of service dog laws in regard to public access accommodations so they can show it to anyone who is unaware of the law.

Though, service dog vests and identification are not a required detail of the law, it never hurts to have your dog fitted in a service vest and to carry proper paperwork identifying your canine partner as a trained service dog.

If having your dog in a recognizable service vest, showing proper identification, and calmly stating the facts of the law don’t work, it may be time to call the police for help. Unfortunately, if the situation escalates, some service dog handlers have had to hire an attorney and take the matter to court to get it resolved, which obviously also means you will not be allowed access to where you were wanting to go until the court hears your case.

As for the gentleman behind me on the plane, who talked (on and on . . . and on) from his superior knowledge of service dogs and his mega-rich lifestyle?  Well, if he was this wealthy, I wondered why he was sitting with his legs crammed under his chin, like the rest of us, in economy class!  Or, if I were to be truly generous of heart, perhaps this kind of frugality accounted for his ability to be, as he put it, “one of the richest under-30 men in the country.”  But somehow I doubt it . . .

Flying isn't fun - png


Woofs of appreciation to: Tere J. Scott for her impeccable research and contribution to MyMagicDog.com for these are other posts.

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7 Responses to When Your Service Dog is Refused Entry

  1. Norman W Wilson, Phd April 13, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    Good review, Doc. For the guy on the plane, maybe he was just trying to manifest. 🙂

  2. Hemlata Vasavada April 14, 2016 at 5:44 am #

    This is informative and answers the question about where service dogs are allowed.

  3. Marie Grime April 14, 2016 at 5:44 am #

    I love dogs far more than I love people, and that’s saying something because I like most people a lot. But if we could measure up in our personalities to those of our 4-footed companions there wouldn’t be dissension, crooked politics, stupid politics, or wars.

    Greed, gluttony, and lust perhaps. Yes, seeing how Sally dives after any crumb that might leave clumsy hands, we would still have greed and gluttony. And we all know the importance of having Rover or Prissy spayed, don’t we?

    I once had the experience of dining at a nice Italian restaurant in Miami with a group of ladies, and one had a gorgeous black lab service dog we’ll call Ebony. We were dressed to the nines, it was a holiday celebration, but this big black baby was the prettiest one at the table anyway. Well, actually, under the table. She rested at her partner’s feet, but between us both.

    I loved it! Couldn’t resist reaching my hand down to pet her a time or two (I am not terribly germ-conscious) although I understand you’re not supposed to pet them. Ebony was the perfect lady. As big as she was, I doubt many of the customers even realized she was there until we got up to leave, and then the looks we received were at first astonishment then admiring. I firmly believe the dog lovers out-number the non-dog people.

    But then, everyone can’t be perfect like Ebony.

  4. Ann E Neupert June 29, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

    Thank you for the information on the ADA and service dogs.

  5. Brian September 28, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    I have just been denied access to a cafe with my assistance dog.
    I have just sent the owner a 172 page document explaining they have broken the law etc !

    Waiting for a reply, will update as and when I get any kind of reply/explanation

    • SL May 21, 2017 at 12:01 am #

      Curious what was the result of this..
      similar situation that happened today.


  6. Timothy Braninburg September 28, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    My dog has been refused to go into a place with me what do I do. She has worked hard for this certificate and to be refused is wrong they didn’t even give her some chances to fail
    My phone no. 916-229-7229

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