Everything You Need to Know About Service Animals in Your Restaurant
Service animals date back more than 100 years when the first school for service dogs opened following World War I as German Shepherds trained to run messages and act as guides were repurposed to serve veterans. But as a restaurant owner, you still may be confused as to how to best serve these animals in your restaurant, especially since today, service animals are not limited to being dogs alone. Rather, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as any animal that is “individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.”
As a restaurant owner, here are some key points to note when it comes to accommodating service animals in your establishment.
Follow Federal Guidelines
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are expressly distinguished from pets by the function they serve. You may instantly think of the seeing eye dog guiding a handler through traffic, but service animals assist with a wide variety activities of daily living, such as retrieving medications or alerting the hearing impaired to emergencies when they arise. The ADA recognizes all breeds of dogs and even exempts handlers from municipal breed restrictions.
Understand Your State’s Rules
While the ADA, a federal mandate, trumps any state regulation, it’s important to know of state-specific rules before opening your doors since each state has different rules regarding service animals and how they may be employed. In Rhode Island, only dogs and miniature horses qualify as service animals. Texas takes a strict approach, threatening a misdemeanor for any animal functioning as a service animal that is not clearly