Saturday, March 10, 2012

Service Animals and Your B&B - What you can and can't do

There are many Bed and Breakfast owners who think that just because they have a "No Pet" policy they do not have accept service animals in their establishments.  This is not the case.  A service animal is not considered to be a pet, but rather an animal that has a job to do that is necessary for the well being of their owner.  Facilities that contain no more than five rooms for rent and where the proprietor actually resides are exempt from this policy

A publication put out by the U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division - Disability Rights Section  addresses what an establishment can and cannot do.   The link to the entire publication is    

The article covers a lot of different things, but I felt that it was important for B&B owners, managers, and interim innkeepers to see the section that specifically deals with Service Animals.  I have copied the section below and underlined, and enlarged three important areas.  The first is a definition of a service animal as of 2012, the second is excluding comfort or thearpy dogs from a service dog category, and the third explains the only two questions that you can actually ask a guest.  

It would be helpful if there was an official certification which service animal owners were required to carry.  Unfortunately, that is not currently an option.

Reprint from U.S. Department of Justice Publication:  Service Animals

Often businesses such as stores, restaurants, hotels, or theaters have policies that can exclude people with disabilities. For example, a "no pets" policy may result in staff excluding people with disabilities who use dogs as service animals. A clear policy permitting service animals can help ensure that staff are aware of their obligation to allow access to customers using service animals. Under the ADA's revised regulations, the definition of "service animal" is limited to a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability. For example, many people who are blind or have low vision use dogs to guide and assist them with orientation. Many individuals who are deaf use dogs to alert them to sounds. People with mobility disabilities often use dogs to pull their wheelchairs or retrieve items. People with epilepsy may use a dog to warn them of an imminent seizure, and individuals with psychiatric disabilities may use a dog to remind them to take medication. Service members returning from war with new disabilities are increasingly using service animals to assist them with activities of daily living as they reenter civilian life. Under the ADA, "comfort," "therapy," or "emotional support animals" do not meet the definition of a service animal.

A service animal gives a can of soda to a young man using a wheelchair.
Service animals provide many types of assistance for people with disabilities.

Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal's work or the individual's disability prevents him from using these devices. Individuals who cannot use such devices must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. Businesses may exclude service animals only if 1) the dog is out of control and the handler cannot or does not regain control; or 2) the dog is not housebroken. If a service animal is excluded, the individual must be allowed to enter the business without the service animal.
In situations where it is not apparent that the dog is a service animal, a business may ask only two questions: 1) is the animal required because of a disability; and 2) what work or task has the animal been trained to perform? No other inquiries about an individual's disability or the dog are permitted. Businesses cannot require proof of certification or medical documentation as a condition for entry.

U.S. Department of Justice
For more information about the revised ADA regulations and 2010 ADA Standards, please visit the Department of Justice´s ADA Website or call our toll-free number.
ADA Website
ADA Information Line
800-514-0301 (Voice)
800-514-0383 (TTY)

24 hours a day to order publications by mail.
M-W, F 9:30 a.m. 5:30 p.m., Th 12:30 p.m. 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) to speak to an ADA Specialist. All calls are confidential.

"Reaching Out to Customers with Disabilities" explains the ADA's requirements for businesses in a short 10-lesson online course (
ADA National Network (DBTAC)
Ten regional centers are funded by the U.S. Department of Education to provide ADA technical assistance to businesses, States and localities, and persons with disabilities. One toll-free number connects you to the center in your region:

800-949-4232 (Voice and TTY)
Access Board
For technical assistance on the ADA/ABA Accessibilty Guidelines:
800-872-2253 (Voice)
800-992 -2822 (TTY)
Internal Revenue Service
For information on the Disabled Access Tax Credit (Form 8826) and the Section 190 tax deduction (Publication 535 Business Expenses):
800-829-3676 (Voice) or 800-829-4059 (TTY)
Lynda and Howard Lerner
Inn Caring


  1. This is timely information for us as we recently had a situation in which a woman arrived (she had not notified us that she had a large service dog). Fortunately, our cottage (which is pet friendly) was available and we put the guests in the cottage. My issue is that I'm allergic to dogs and I cannot have them in the main house. It's a difficult situation for us because we understand the ADA regulations, but at the same time I have my own health issues. Thanks for sharing this information.

  2. We have a guest that has no apparent disabilities and is with her spouse. What prevents a guest from saying they have a service dog when it is not and they just want to bring their dog along claiming it's a service dog? This is the same thing where people use handicapped parking spaces and tags when it's another person who has the disability and not them.

    1. I have found that when I have a guest, who identifies that they are bringing a service dog, I send them a pre-notice of a form that asks the two questions that are allowed to ask:
      1. Is the dog required for a disability. 2. What service does the dog perform? I also note that the dog can not be left unattended in the room while they are out and about for the day. I had one woman, who was going to a long workshop, but didn't want to take the dog with her. I indicated that the assumption is that if the dog is needed for a disability, that the dog will go with the guest and not be left alone for long periods of time in a guestroom.
      That seems to have resolved the issue.

  3. We, as well, are B&B owners and JUST ran into this situation this past weekend. It seems as though upon checking into our Inn the dog owners did have papers. As I was unaware what questions to ask upon their reservation, which they so kindly informed me AFTER they made their reservation that they had a 'service dog', I of course accepted their reservation, though, reluctantly. At their reservation, I was taken aback, thus knew not that I COULD ask a couple of questions. Since I did not, I believe that they brought the dog in under less than admirable circumstance. With this, I was unaware of the ADA revised regulations until I pulled upon Inn Caring's website. Yes! This is good. This is VERY GOOD! Thank you, Inn Caring, for your most valuable information!! What I did learn is that I do not have to accept just 'any animal' in my Inn, even under the guise of a service animal. I learned that I am 'ALLOWED' to ask these 2 pertinent questions.....1) Is your animal required because of a disability; and 2) What work or task has the animal been trained to perform? NOTE, and very important...With the return our Soldiers from war, the ADA still stands, as follows: Under the ADA, "comfort", "therapy" or "emotional support animals" DO NOT MEET THE DEFINITION OF A SERVICE ANIMAL. As we absolutely LOVE our Service men and women, and offer them a 15% discount for any stay while on Leave, we unfortunately can not accommodate their dog. Again, very valuable information for those of wishing to serve our guests. Hebrews 13:2...We entertain Angel's unaware!

  4. If a veteran has a service dog because of PTSD that is in fact a Service Dog. Not a comfort, emotional support or therapy animal. I know it may seem confusing with all the different terms.

  5. Thank you Becky Sullivan! Although Service Dogs do provide comfort for Veterans, they do much much more than that! To deny a Veteran with a Service Dog is, as far as I'm concerned, nothing less than vile. These men and women have done so much for our country and our freedoms and way of life, they deserve the utmost respect and honor.

    And please remember that not all disabilities are visible! No "papers" are necessary. I do have a letter from my specialist but this is ONLY for use, in court. Service Dogs do NOT need to wear any special vest or other paraphernalia. You CANNOT discriminate against a person using a Service Dog - such as insisting that they only use a special pet friendly room. You cannot charge a fee for a Service Dog. Yes, if the dog should damage property (such as chewing furniture or soiling flooring) you can charge for the repairs. You cannot turn away a person with a Service Dog because they did not tell you about the dog in advance.

    Yes, there will always be people who try to "use" the system, but I feel that they are few and far between. There is a lot that goes into being a Service Dog Team - it's almost like having a baby with me for 7 - 10 years at a time. I love my dog but would love it more if I truly didn't NEED him!

  6. Your post is very helpful, thank you. Assistance dogs go beyond being pets. They change lives, provide greater independence, enhance quality of life, calm fears, give physical support and provide peace of mind. There are many questions surrounding them however. See more

  7. In the past couple of years I have seen a pretty big increase of people that unfortunately bring their pets in to businesses and call them service animals...

    1. No kidding. We had one couple say they had to bring in their "service dog" since the girlfriend had extreme anxiety. They left the dog in their room, went to a Red Rocks concert with 10,000 people without the dog. THe dog ran around the room barking for 3 hours. Obviously not a service dog. Then they write a bad review about us. So sad.

  8. Thank you for some other informative blog. Where else could I get that type of information written in such an ideal means? I have a mission that I’m just now working on, and I have been at the look out for such information. jax and bones

  9. My B&B is my home and shared with my cat. He has a history of attacking dogs. There's no way that I could allow a dog on the premises. What about that?

  10. When there are conflicting disability needs, according to the ADA, they'd have to both be accommodated. It's also a federal offense to interfere with a service dog. So, you would have to control your cat.

    A business has to accommodate people with disabilities. It's just part of having a business. That means service dogs, any business has to figure out how to manage it.

  11. What are the B&B owners rights in the event they have an allergy or other health issue around animals? It wasn't addressed here. Thanks.

  12. What are the B&B owner's rights if they have an allergy or health issue. It didn't seem to be addressed here. Thanks.

  13. I have a terminal lung disease. We do not have any animals because of my condition and breathing problems. I have 4 rooms at my home/ B & B/. I do the cleaning etc. I have to be VERY life depends on it. There is no treatment, med or cure for my disease. If I have a major exacerbation I can die. What am I supposed to do?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. It has recently come to my attention, that if you are under 5 rooms and live on the premises, the ADA rules do not apply. However, just to be sure, I would check with someone in your city regarding your situation. There is just so much conflicting information out there. The ADA might say you are exempt, but your city or state may not.

  14. Thank you AnonymousDecember 29, 2015 at 11:26 PM - that was beautifully put! My husband is legally blind and we now travel with a service dog. We love the dog like he is part of the family, but would love it way more if we didn't have to have one at all! We do try to contact any establishment that we are staying at and inform them that we travel with a service animal, but not every one out there is knowledgeable about the rules concerning service animals.

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  17. I am willing to have a service dog in one certain room at my inn, however, are we wrong in asking them to not bring a support dog to breakfast? We serve family style with 8 people to a table.

    1. According to the ADA, you cannot limit them to just one room in your facility. A person with a service dog has to be allowed to rent any room, just the same as a person without a service dog. The same would be applied to breakfast. A service dog is supposed to be with the person so that they are there to complete the task they have been trained to do.

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