Service Animals and Reasonable Accommodations at Work- FAQs

For people with disabilities of a wide range, a trained service animal can perform specific tasks in the workplace. Service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, are individually trained to perform these tasks. People in America have rights under the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, and these rights include public access, housing, employment, and other areas where discrimination is forbidden. For employment, the rights of the person with a disability are weighed against the rights of the employer.

1. Do service animals have to complete a registered certification course? No. Those with a disability have the right to train their own service animal.

2. Are emotional support animals considered service animals? No, not unless they have been specifically trained to perform a task.

3. What does an emotional support animal do? They provide comfort and companionship to those with mental health or emotional disorders. If these disorders rise to the level of a disability, that person can request an accommodation at work, including allowing a support animal.

4. Is a psychiatric service dog the same as an emotional support animal? No. Psychiatric service dogs have been trained to perform specific tasks related to the disability.

5. For those who control access, can they require a certification in writing before allowing an animal in? No. Those who control access are allowed to ask if the animal is a service animal, and what is the specific task the animal is trained to perform. Many people carry some sort of paperwork or a special harness for the dog, to reduce the amount of interaction with those who control access.

6. Can service animals enter areas where food is being prepared and served, such as kitchens and cafeterias? Yes.

7. In a workplace, who can decide if a service animal will be allowed? A person with a disability who has a trained service dog must ask the workplace, usually through a letter to human resources, for a reasonable accommodation to work. The request should include how the animal will be cared for at work and the specific task the animal has been trained to perform. The workplace will evaluate if allowing the animal will incur a significant expense or burden, or create undue hardship.

8. If the request for a reasonable accommodation is denied, how to proceed?Many people will meet with human resources and attempt to mediate a difference by finding solutions to the issues seen as undue burdens.

9. For a service animal in the workplace, who is responsible for the animal’s behavior and needs? The handler or owner is responsible for both, and this includes taking the animal outside for bathroom breaks during regular work breaks.

10. Who has liability if a service animal causes injury or illness in others? The handler or owner is responsible, but many workplaces also make sure their business liability coverage also includes issues related to service dogs.

11. Can an animal other than a dog be a service animal? Yes, but the rules for being trained to perform a specific task related to the disability remain. In addition, an undue hardship in the workplace may be more significant for a large or noisy animal, rather than a dog.