Here’s what restaurant owners need to know about service animals, including the current regulations.
Current national regulations
The U.S. Department of Justice currently oversees national regulations regarding service animals, which are outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Beginning on March 15, 2011, the ADA limited the definition of service animals to "dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities." The work or tasks they perform may include:
Guiding the blind;
Pulling a wheelchair;
Alerting and protecting individuals who are deaf or having a seizure;
Reminding individuals to take prescribed medications; and
Acting as a calming force for those diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The ADA makes it clear that service animals are "working animals" and are not classified as pets. The task performed by the dog must also directly relate to the person's disability.
Dogs acting primarily as emotional support for their owners do not qualify as service animals per the ADA guidelines.