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According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is defined as an animal that has been individually trained to provide assistance or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a physical or mental disability which substantially limits one or more of their major life functions.
Under the ADA, businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of their facilities where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants; hotels; taxis and shuttles; grocery and department stores; hospitals and medical offices; theaters; health clubs; parks; and zoos.
Service animals are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities - such as guiding people who are blind; alerting people who are deaf; pulling wheelchairs; alerting and protecting a person experiencing a seizure; or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.
The Disability Rights Section within the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice has issued a new technical assistance document reflecting the recent changes to the ADA Regulations regarding Service Animals. This document can be found on-line at:
http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm (HTML Version)
http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.pdf (PDF Version)
The civil rights of persons with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in all places of public and housing accommodations is protected by the following federal laws:
If you have additional questions concerning the ADA and service animals, please call the U.S. Department of Justice's toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY), or visit http://www.ada.gov/.