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Indiana Protection & Advocacy Services

IPAS > Equal Access > ADA Service Animals ADA Service Animals

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.

General Service Animal Guidelines

  • Businesses may ask if an animal is a service animal, or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform. They cannot require special ID cards for animals or ask about people's disabilities.
  • People with disabilities aided by service animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons, or treated less favorably than other patrons. However, if a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage caused, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.
  • Violators of the ADA can be required to pay monetary damages and penalties.
  • A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove their service animal from the premises unless:
    1. the animal is out of control and the animal's owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or
    2. the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
      • In these cases, the business should give the person with the disability the option to obtain goods and services without having the animal on the premises.
  • Businesses that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas, even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
  • A business is not required to provide care or food for a service animal or provide a special location for it to relieve itself.
  • Allergies and fear of animals are generally not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people with service animals.
  • Service dog etiquette:
    • Do not touch the service animal, or the person it assists, without the owner's permission
    • Do not make noises at the service animal; this action could distract the animal from performing its job
    • Do not feed the service animal; this could disrupt his/her schedule
    • Do not feel offended if a person with a service animal does not wish to discuss his/her disability or the assistance their service animal provides
  • 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: (HTML Version)  (PDF Version)

Service Animal Access

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