• Dr. Rhesa Houston

Customers with Service Dogs: Rights and responsibilities of a business owner

Rights and responsibilities of a business owner



In my work as a veterinarian, I’ve come across stories on how businesses are having more customers with service dogs. I’ve also witnessed how some businesses may be unknowingly noncompliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it relates to customers using service dogs.


The use of service dogs is rising. As a business owner or manager, do you know your rights and responsibilities as a business entity for your customers with disabilities using service dogs? Are your employees trained and empowered to provide the appropriate customer experience for a consumer using a service dog? Are your business practices compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act?


At Assistance Animals Consulting, we are veterinarians, recognized experts uniquely qualified to serve the community by providing resources for education, behavioral understanding, and guidance regarding working animals. Our veterinarians are here to support you and your business.


4 Frequently Asked Questions By Business Owners About Service Animals


We have identified 4 frequently asked questions from business owners who want to learn more about service animals. Reduce or prevent ADA violations to your business by understanding ADA compliance and being knowledgeable of the rules. ADA violations can result in your business paying monetary damages and penalties.


1. How much power does a business owner have regarding service dogs?

  • Under the ADA, businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service dog into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go.

  • Businesses may ask if an animal is a service dog or ask what tasks the dog has been trained to perform, but cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person's disability.

  • Businesses may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service dog, as a condition for entry.

  • Businesses that sell or prepare food must allow service dogs in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.

2. Can I refuse service? Are there laws that say I can’t refuse service to a handler and a dog?

  • If a service dog is disruptive or out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, staff may request that the animal be removed from the premises.

  • In the case of a disruptive service dog, the business should give the handler/customer the option to obtain goods and services without having the animal on the premises.

  • A business is not required to provide care or food for a service dog 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 dogs.

  • The ADA gives a person with a disability the right to be accompanied by his or her service dog, but businesses are not required to allow an animal to sit or be fed at the table.

3. Will I be held liable if a negative event occurs in my business? If so, how can I cover myself to reduce my liabilities?

  • Regarding business liabilities, we do not provide legal advice. Please consult with your attorney.

  • If your business normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer/handler with a disability may be charged for the damage caused by his or her service dog. However, handlers/customers with disabilities who use a service dog cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons, or treated less favorably than other patrons.

4. Can businesses be trained to be more accepting to this business trend?

  • Yes, our Workforce Development Program was developed to provide training and education for your businesses and employees.

  • Our Workforce Development Program provides the following:

  1. Implements training strategies that is easily understood and replicated for future use.

  2. Helps your business reduce or prevent violations of the ADA that can require your business to pay money damages and penalties.

  3. Helps your business better support your customers with disabilities using service dogs.

  4. Helps your business become ADA compliant as it relates to customers using service animals.

This article’s information does not constitute legal advice.


Assistance Animals Consulting is your partner to provide education and training to your organization so you can be compliant and supportive of individuals with disabilities using service dogs.


To learn more about emotional support, service dogs, and all working animals, contact Assistance Animals Consulting today.

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