With widespread media coverage of disputes about service dogs in bars and restaurants disability advocates, real and self proclaimed, are predicting an explosion of litigation about service dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act. There has been no change in the statute itself, and the Department of Justice regulations for service dogs went into effect in 2011. However, as with other kinds of ADA litigation, it has taken some time for the implications of the law to work their way into the popular consciousness.
The easy situation for any business is a person with an obvious disability who comes to a business with a well behaved service dog wearing a vest or other identification. The ADA is clear – the dog and owner must be allowed in the store or restaurant even if there is a “no pets” policy in place. The harder situation, and the one that leads to media coverage and lawsuits, occurs when a person who has no obvious disability arrives with an unmarked dog and a bad attitude. Dealing with this situation, and any resulting problems, requires careful thought about just how service dogs fit into the ADA’s scheme of disability rights. More