There is a lot of confusion over just where you can take your therapy dog. Due to misconceptions over how therapy dogs are viewed by the government, there are frequent misunderstandings over where they are allowed to accompany their handlers, making it vital that you learn the facts. Therapy dogs do not fall under the same laws as assistance animals (service dogs and emotional support animals), and as such, their access to certain locations is more limited than you might think. Knowing the federal laws makes it easier to determine where you can take your therapy dog. If you have a therapy dog and you’re confused by just where you can and cannot take them, then this handy guide should clear up the confusion for you.
Therapy dogs and Federal Laws
While emotional support animals and service dogs are well-covered in The American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA) ,there are grey areas. Those gray areas are often where you will find the laws confusing when it comes to therapy dogs.
The animal laws linked to the ADA are very specific when discussing service dogs (such as guide dogs for the blind) and emotional support animals, but it’s vital that you understand that therapy dogs are viewed very differently.
This is because service dogs (and emotional support animals) are usually dedicated to the treatment of a single individual, whereas the owner of a therapy dog uses their own animal to help others. This distinction is vital.
The most important takeaway to remember is that therapy dogs are given the same rights as regular pets. Just as you would ask permission before taking your family pet to a new destination, so too should you follow the same rules when going somewhere new with your therapy dog.
The Fair Housing Act has some general rules regarding housing your animals. A property owner is legally allowed to deny access to their land or building to both humans and animals.
However, property owners can be found in breach of the law if they deny housing to a person because they have assistance animals.
This rule does not apply to therapy dogs. While emotional support animals are covered in some states, therapy dogs are not, and there are no legally protected statuses for them. Use as they are with all perts, landlords are allowed to make their own mind up about whether to allow a resident to own and live with a therapy dog.
College Dorms – The rules
While therapy dogs have proven to be very beneficial for stressed students, living in college dorms with your therapy dog is totally a decision made by the college. While there are no set laws stating that colleges and universities must house your therapy dog, you may find that many institutions are open to discussion on the subject.
If you have a therapy dog and you’re planning to move to college accommodations, then you should talk to your housing department to discuss the best ways to make an application for your therapy dog.
Airports and Planes
There is a common misconception that therapy dogs are allowed on flights with nothing more than a discussion with your airline. Partly, this is due to the incredible rise in numbers of people who are now traveling with emotional support animals, although recent changes may reduce that number. However, once again, therapy dogs are not classed in the same category as assistance dogs.
The Air Carrier Access Act may allow those with service and emotional support animals to fly with their animals without any extra cost, but your therapy dog is not covered under the same laws.
Instead, it will be treated as a pet. There are, however, some cases where an airline will allow your therapy dog to travel with you, but these are rare.
Public Access and Therapy Dogs
While private buildings and properties are clearly covered by federal and state laws, public access buildings will have a lot more leeway. While the laws themselves grant no extra legal protection for your therapy dog, you will usually find that public spaces are far more accessible.
- Hotels/Airbnb – Due to the fact that these are classed as temporary accommodation, there are no laws in place that will protect you if you simply show up with your therapy dog in tow without warning the owners or staff in advance. However, you will often find that if you can prove the credentials and good behavior of your dog, then many hotels and Airbnbs will allow them. Always talk directly to your accommodation provider and you might be surprised by how welcoming they can be.
- At Work – Service dogs are legally covered when it comes to animals in the workplace. Unfortunately, both therapy dogs and emotional support animals are not. This is somewhat frustrating, as therapy dogs have been shown to be valuable additions to the busy and stressful office. Like accommodations, while there are no strict laws in place protecting your right to bring a therapy dog into the workplace, simply asking your employer if it will be acceptable may mean that you get permission. The behavior of your therapy dog will be the key to being allowed this. Suggest starting with one day a week, so that your employer is able to see just how well behaved your trained dog is.
Some of the laws covering pet ownership and animal access can change from state to state. Make sure that you are fully aware of your legal rights, but never forget that often a polite conversation can be very rewarding. Therapy dogs are very popular, and because they have been trained to be calm and hygienic, they will be welcome in more places than you might think.
Always check with your destination before you arrive with your therapy dog. While you may not be legally protected and given guaranteed access to where you want to take your therapy dog, very often a brief explanation of just what work your therapy dog does and the impact you can have, will be enough to melt even the hardest heart.