Can Service Animals Be Denied Access?

Apr 22,2021

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act in the US and the Equality Act in the United Kingdom, private businesses and public venues can not deny access to service animals and their handlers. Only a few states in the US recognize miniature horses as service animals while the majority of states in the US and all of the UK categorizes service animals as dogs only. Miniature horses typically have limited access compared to their dog coworkers due to their weight and size, but they have equal rights within the states where they are recognized. Here is a quick and easy-to-remember description of a working animal that helps a person with mental and physical disabilities:

Service animals are not pets and they are specially trained either professionally or individually to assist their handler with a disability.

As far as the European Union is concerned service dog handlers should check the Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council. The document guarantees equal access rights to service dog handlers, but it needs more work. Some describe is a patchwork of regulations collected from national laws and it may be difficult to navigate. Put briefly: assistance dogs (a.k.a. service dogs) are allowed access to the same areas as the general public. Some limitations may apply depending on the EU member country.

How to Spot A Person With A Service Animal

There is no simple answer. The service dogs and miniature horses are not typically required to carry a vest or tags that indicate they are working animals. You can not always recognize a service animal so you need to keep a few things in mind. A blind person with a dog can easily be recognized to use a service animal, however, a person with diabetes or seizure problems may carry a small dog to help them deal with their health condition. Business owners and their staff are legally allowed to ask two questions from persons with disabilities that are accompanied by a service animal:

Is the animal required because of a disability?

What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

Now that you have context and an idea of what is a service animal let’s go ahead and answer a few common questions that service dog handlers and business owners may ask themselves.

Can an apartment building manager deny access to a service dog?

No, any building manager/owner that denies access to a service animal and their handler is liable to a fine, and potential imprisonment. Violation of the established equal access rights can lead to prosecution in a court of law.

Can the hospital staff/dentist deny access to a service dog?

Yes, some areas of the hospitals do not allow any animals due to sanitation concerns. Usually, therapy dogs and service dogs are granted access to the areas where people are placed for monitoring. You can visit your doctor with a service dog, but you should check in advance if there are no special circumstances that may permit the visit. You can visit your dentist with a service dog, however, emotional support animals are not allowed.

Can you go to a SPA accompanied by your service dog?

Yes, you can visit a SPA resort and enjoy most of the available services. However, you can not enter saunas and swimming pools with your service animal.

Can I drive my service dog in a cart in the grocery store?

No, typically, the service animal must stay on the floor.  There are some instances when an individual with a disability may carry the dog. An individual with diabetes may carry the service animal in a chest pack to allow the service animal to smell the individual’s breath to detect changes in glucose levels.

Can a Lyft/Uber worker or a taxi driver deny access to a service dog handler and their animal?

No, every service provider needs to enable access to persons with disabilities and their animals with reasonable comfort.

Does a business need to provide food, water, or a special location for the service dog?

No, the service dog handler is responsible for the care and supervision of their animal at all times.

Do you need to pay a pet deposit to access public accommodation?

No, the service dogs are not pets – they are working animals and you are not required to make a pet deposit. However, if the dog does damages you are liable required to pay compensation.

Can you visit a restaurant with a service dog?

Yes, you can eat at a restaurant accompanied by your service dog. However, it must remain on the floor and it should not interfere with the restaurant staff or other customers.

Service Dog Exclusion Zones

Let me start by affirming that any business owner can deny access to any animal that is causing damages and sanitation incidents. If a service dog behaves inappropriately and is not under control it can be escorted out of public premises along with its handler.

The zoo:

Your service dog may not be allowed in some areas of the zoo where it may cause a disturbance among the other animals.

The swimming pool

Dogs are not allowed in public swimming pools due to health concerns.

A food production facility

No animals are allowed in the food production facilities due to health concerns, and sanitation regulations.


As you may suspect, no animals are allowed here due to the same reasons described above.

Production facilities 

Where allergen-free items are made.

Should you need help with your service dog access rights and accommodation please do not hesitate to consult your doctor, the veterinarian and call your local business manager in advance.