Rocky Mountain ADA Center Defines "Service Animal" and Provides Tips for Individuals and Businesses to Recognize Impostors

Service Animals must fit specific guidelines as outlined by the ADA in order to receive special access with owners.

Colorado Springs, CO, November 23, 2013 --( With the recent proliferation of news coverage on impostor service animals, the Rocky Mountain ADA Center provides ADA guidelines on service animals and tips for individuals and businesses to recognize service animals versus impostors. The Rocky Mountain ADA Center provides information and training on the ADA to individuals and organizations throughout a six state region including Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) defines service animals for title II (State and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities). According to the DOJ, a service animal is defined as follows:

Service animals are dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, assisting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

In general, a service animal may accompany a person with a disability into places where any member of the general public would be allowed access with regards to state and local government offices, businesses, and non-profit organizations that serve the general public. However, the animal must be leashed or tethered and controlled by voice commands, signals or other effective controls.

“A true service animal will display characteristics of a working dog; he will be well-trained and under the control of his owner at all times,” stated Candice Alder, Technical Assistance and Training Director for the Rocky Mountain ADA Center. “If a business suspects the dog may be an impostor, they have the right to inquire about the nature of the service the dog provides for its owner.”

In the event that a business suspects it may be dealing with an impostor service animal, the ADA allows for the following inquiries and exclusions:

· If it is not clear whether or not an animal is a true service dog, business owners may ask only the following two questions: 1.)If the dog is a service animal required for a disability, 2.) What work the dog has been trained to perform.

· Business owners may not ask the dog to demonstrate the specific work or task, nor ask the nature of the individual’s disability, nor ask for medical documentation or the dog’s identification.

· A service animal may only be asked to leave a business premises if either its owner fails to control the dog in an effective manner, or if the animal is not house-broken. The business must still offer to provide services to the person with a disability once the dog has been removed.

Business owners do retain certain rights in regards to service animals. Though a service animal cannot be charged a pet deposit fee, the business may collect a fee for any damages incurred by the animal. In general, businesses are not required to care for or provide food for service animals.

According to ADA guidelines, businesses must treat persons with disabilities who use service animals as they would their normal patrons. Unless there is reasonable doubt about the legitimacy of the service animal, they must be allowed access to all public spaces and their owners must not be isolated or treated differently because of the presence of the animal. For information and updates on service animals, visit

To learn more about your rights and responsibilities under the ADA, contact the ADA Center at or (800) 949-4232.

About the Rocky Mountain ADA Center
The Rocky Mountain ADA Center is operated by Meeting the Challenge, Inc. and provides information, training and informal guidance to individuals and organizations with rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Center is one of 10 regional centers funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, and serves a six-state region including Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. For more information, visit
Rocky Mountain ADA Center
Diana Crawford
Michelle Ellis