January 27, 2014

Hot Report: Service Dogs and the Law

OLR Report 2014-R-0025 answers several questions about service dogs. Does Connecticut law or the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require proof that a dog is being used to help a person with disabilities to be afforded the protections allowed service dogs and their owners? Is there any Connecticut law on falsely claiming that an animal is a service dog? Do other states have such laws? Has there been any Connecticut legislation on registering service dogs?

Connecticut law requires public accommodations to permit people who are blind, deaf, or mobility impaired to use service dogs to help them. The ADA has similar provisions but covers a wider range of disabilities, including mental and psychiatric disabilities.

Connecticut law does not require a person using a service dog to prove that the dog is being used to help with disabilities in order to be afforded the protections allowed to people using service dogs. Like other dogs, the service dog must be licensed and have a tag. If the dog has not been previously licensed, the owner must present documentation that the dog has been appropriately trained as a service dog to get a license. The ADA does not require such proof and its implementing regulations limit the types of questions that people working in the private and public facilities it covers can ask about the dog or its owner.

There is no Connecticut law on falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog. California, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington have such laws. In most cases, the offense is a misdemeanor. In some cases, these laws appear to conflict with the ADA, for example by limiting the use of service dogs to people with physical disabilities. To the extent there is a conflict, it would appear that the ADA would supersede the state law.

No Connecticut legislation on establishing a service dog registry was found.

For more information, read the full report.