service animals

Welcoming a hotel guest with a service animal may be as simple and check-in and check-out. Instituting a refresher on the legal do’s and don’ts of service animals can help hospitality sectors manage these helpful companions with ease. Below, we cover some of the basics of service animal protocol.

Dogs in vests and miniature horses, too? Service animals guide the blind, alert the hearing impaired, aid with mobility issues, and perform tasks a person cannot. Service animals are typically dogs but mini horses can be trained to pull wheelchairs too. They are trained to support people with life-limiting disabilities.

Questioning the four-legged creature. Staff who question a service animal’s credibility can legally ask if the animal is required because of a disability.  However, asking what that disability is or requesting documentation is not allowed. Staff can ask what service the animal has been trained to perform. But, staff can’t ask the service animal to perform that task as proof.

Emotional distress animals (ESAs) are different than service animals, and provide aid for people with emotional or psychological conditions who benefit from the emotional support of an animal. ESAs are not covered by the American with Disabilities Act, yet recent litigation has arisen when people with ESAs have been denied equal access in other areas, such as housing. When in doubt, accommodate in all arenas.

Table for two with bowl on the floor? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows people with service animals to go enter general areas of privately owned businesses that serve the public, like hotels, restaurants, movies, theaters, and taxicabs. Hotels and restaurants cannot segregate the person and animal from other patrons.

However, the animal must be behaving well. If a dog is barking, growling, defecating, or acting viciously, it can be removed while the person remains in your establishment. In general, a service dog should be leashed when it is not performing its tasks. It should be within three feet of its owner, and it should not be disrupting other guests.

Just doing their job! Like those in the service industry of hospitality, these animals are on-site to perform a service. The next time four furry legs and a tail walk in, remember that they are there to do a job as well.