Service and Companion Animals

group of people with their service dogs

Service and Companion Animals

Individuals with disabilities have the right to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed. We help individuals with disabilities resolve a wide range of accessibility and accommodation issues including protections for individuals who have service animals.

Service Dog Meet & Greet

Know Your Rights

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service dog onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed. With some exceptions, this requirement extends to miniature horses (ranging in height from 24-34” and weigh between 70-100 lbs.) that are deemed service animals.

What is a service animal?

A dog or miniature horse is a “service animal” if it is “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” The service animal does not need to be professionally trained.

For miniature horses, businesses subject to the ADA must modify their policies/practices to permit miniature horses access to areas customers are generally allowed if the horses can be accommodated in the business. There are four factors a business may consider to determine if a horse can be accommodated: (1) whether the horse is housebroken; (2) whether the horse is under the owner’s control; (3) whether the business can accommodate the horse’s type, size and weight; and (4) whether the horse’s presence will not compromise the legitimate requirements necessary for the safe operation of the business.

Emotional support animals (animals that provide comfort by being with a person and not trained to perform work or a specific task) are not considered service animals under the ADA. Service animals perform one or more tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself and must be directly related to the disability. Examples of assistance provided by dogs/miniature horse service animals include:

  • Alerting a person who is deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds
  • Pulling a wheelchair or retrieving items
  • Assisting a person during a seizure
  • Alerting a person to the presence of allergens
  • Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability
  • Helping a person with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
  • Sensing/anticipating an anxiety/panic attack is about to happen and taking specific action to avoid the attack or mitigate its impact

The Law

New Hampshire RSA 167-D states, “It is lawful for any service animal to accompany his or her handler or trainer into any public facility, housing accommodation, or place of public accommodation to which the general public is invited, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I be required to provide proof that my service animal is not a pet?

No. Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have
identification papers. Some states have programs to certify service animals, New Hampshire does not.  Businesses may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability. Businesses may ask if the animal is a service animal required because of a disability and what work or tasks it has been trained to perform. Businesses cannot require documentation as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal.

What must the business do when I bring my service animal into the facility?

The service animal must be permitted to accompany you to all areas of the facility where customers and the public are normally allowed to go. You may not be segregated from other customers.

What if there is a posted "no pets" policy at the establishment?

A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires the business to
make an exception to the “no pets” policy to allow the use of a service
animal by a person with a disability.

Can the business charge a maintenance or cleaning fee?

No. Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition to allowing a service animal to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets.

However, a public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities if a service animal causes damage so long as it is the
regular practice of the entity to charge non-disabled customers for
the same types of damages. For example, a hotel can charge a guest with a disability for the cost of repairing or cleaning furniture damaged by a service animal if it is the hotel’s policy to charge when non-disabled guests cause such damage.

Are taxicabs required to allow service animals into the vehicle?

Yes. Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to
individuals with disabilities. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting
individuals with disabilities and their service animals than they charge to other persons for the same or equivalent service.

What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

Any animal, including a service animal, can be excluded from a
facility when that animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the  health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. The business may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually.

A service animal must be housebroken.

Although a public accommodation may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises.

Can a business exclude an animal that is disruptive to business?

There may be a few circumstances when a public accommodation is not required to accommodate a service animal – that is, when doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business. Generally, this is not likely to occur in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities. But when it does, for example, when a dog barks during a movie, the  animal can be excluded.

Contact Us

If You Need Help

Contact us if you wish to speak with an attorney about a disability-related legal issue.

Contact Us