Five College Consortium

Five College Risk Management

Service Animals

  1. About Service Animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  2. Questions for a Handler of a Service Dog
  3. Excluding a Service Dog from the Premises
  4. Resources

About Service Animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Service animals are defined as dogs or minature horses that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

ADA 2010 Revised Requirements, US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division

Please note: this page is in reference to service animals only. These regulations, guidelines, and resources do not necessarily apply to assistance animals, emotional support animals, therapy animals, or pets.

Questions for a Handler of a Service Dog
service dog at work

In order to protect both their privacy and dignity, the ADA restricts what staff and/or the institution can ask of an individual who wishes to access an area with a service dog. (Please note that in some instances, miniature horses can also be considered a service animal.)

What Should you ask a Handler?

don't ask
  • Don't ask about the person's disability.
  • Don't require medical documentation to support the need for the animal.
  • Don't require documentation that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed.
  • Don't ask that the animal demonstrate its ability to perform its work and/or task.
You May Ask only two questions
  1. Is the service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

These are the only two questions you may legally ask;
all others infringe on the individual's right to privacy.

Other handler & service dog Etiquette

  • Speak to the person first. Do not distract the service dog without permission.
  • Do not touch the service dog without permission.
  • Do not offer food or treats to the service dog without permission.
  • Do not ask personal questions about the handler's disability.
  • Remember a service dog is not a pet; it is a worker and often a medical necessity.

Excluding a Service Animal from the Premises

Valid Reasons for Exclusion of a Service Dog

There are only two instances where a service dog can denied access to the premises: 1) if the dog is out of control and the handler does not take action to control the animal, or 2) the dog is not housebroken. When one of these reasons occur and the dog is made to leave the premise, accommodations must be made for the individual to still received help/goods/services without the aid of their service dog. 

invalid reasons

  • Allergies of others in the area
  • Fear of dogs of others in the area
  • The establishment sells/prepares food and local health codes prohibit animals on the premises

other illegal practices

  • You cannot isolate the handler and their service dog because of the service dog.
  • You cannot charge fees to the handler, even if fees are normally charged for pets accessing the premise; a service animal is not a pet. 
  • You cannot treat the handler any less favorably than other individuals because of the service dog.
  • A service dog is not a pet; it is as necessary as a wheelchair to someone with a mobility impairment or a guide cane to someone with a visual impairment.


Below is a compilation of legislation, articles, guides, checklists, policies, training and informational videos, and other materials to help the campus members understand more about services animals and the valuable assistance they provide to some of our fellow campus community members. If you have any questions, concerns, or need for clarification about the material on this page, please feel free to contact the Risk Management office.

Reading Material

ADA 2010 Revised Requirements - "The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title II (State and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register. These requirements, or rules, clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new, and updated, requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards)."

The Americans with Disabilites Act of 1990 - Full text of the legislation as well as the revised ADA regulations implementing Title II and Title III.

Mount Holyoke College Service Animals PolicyThe scope of this policy is to set forth the college’s policy, guidelines, and requirements with respect to the admittance and use of service animals on its campus or in other college programs.


How to Understand the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Describes the Americans with Disabilities Act as it relates to service dogs. (2 minutes, 22 seconds)

What is a Service Animal?

Describes the basics of what a service animal is and does according to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Department of Justice regulations updated in March 2011. (3 minutes, 7 seconds)