The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says businesses must admit service animals anywhere their owners go, but business operators and their employees sometimes don’t know exactly what the law stipulates. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions on service animals.
What kind of animals must I allow in my restaurant?
The law applies only to dogs and miniature horses that are specifically trained to respond to the needs of a person with a disability. For example, someone can’t bring a boa constrictor to a restaurant and say it makes him or her feel more comfortable. The law covers only service animals individually trained to do specific tasks. It doesn’t cover animals that provide emotional support, comfort, well-being or companionship.
What do I do if someone enters my establishment with a service animal? Can I keep it away from other guests?
Many operators are concerned about allowing service animals in their establishments, but you can’t prevent a service animal and its handler from entering. Some worry the animal will misbehave or bother other guests. But well-trained service animals are better behaved than most pets. They won’t beg for food at the table or make an impact at the restaurant. According to the ADA, you must allow the service animal to go anywhere the customer goes, including the restroom.
How do I know it’s really a service animal? Can I demand some sort of proof?
Service animals aren’t required to wears vests, collars, backpacks or other identifying features. The ADA doesn’t require you to admit animals in training, which often wear special vests, but some state laws do. Check with your regional ADA center to find out about training animal requirements in your state.
You can’t ask for documentation of service animals, and your guests don’t need to show licenses or tags. While some guests might voluntarily offer to show you a license, you can’t demand proof.
What should I say to the guest with a service animal?
There are only two questions you can ask about the service animal: “Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?” and “What tasks is the animal trained to perform?” You can’t say, “You don’t look like you have disability” or ask what the disability is. The guest might say, “My service animal pulls me, opens doors and fetches things off floor.” He or she never has to state what the disability is. Otherwise, it’s a violation of civil rights.
Source: National Restaurant Association. Click here to read the full article.