Service animals are a readily used companion in this day and age and rightfully so. Many individuals have experienced a significant increase in their quality of life by having a trusting companion at their side. So many of us take for granted the simple tasks we are able to complete each day, but many people rely on their service animal to help them complete tasks that may be second nature for many.
As a result of service animals becoming such a prominent part of our society, there have been rules and regulations put into place to protect them. The good news is that these laws benefit the service dog owner and make sure that most accommodations can be met. If you have a service animal you shouldn’t have limitations on what you can and cannot do with it.
Under Alabama law, a service animal is any dog that is individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. The tasks or work the dog does must be directly related to the person’s disability.
Service animals also include the following:
- a guide dog (or “seeing eye” dog) who helps someone who is visually impaired navigate public transportation and city streets
- a hearing dog who alerts someone who is hearing impaired to important sounds, like doorbells and alarms, or
- a seizure alert dog who warns someone with epilepsy of the onset of a seizure.
Alabama recognizes dogs as service animals and miniature horses on particular cases. All other animals do not qualify as service animals. If you are seeking assistance from an animal that is not either of these, you can try and register it as an emotional support animal.
Under Alabama law, your service animal is permitted in the following locations:
- hotels and other lodging establishments
- public transportation and terminals, depots, and stations
- restaurants and other places that serve food and drink
- sales or rental establishments
- service establishments
- any place of public gathering, such as an auditorium or convention center
- places of entertainment and exhibit, like theaters or sports stadiums
- gyms, bowling alleys, and other places of exercise or recreation
- recreational facilities, such as zoos and parks
- libraries, museums, and other places where items are collected or displayed publicly
- educational institutions, and
- social service centers, like senior centers, homeless shelters, and food banks.
No accommodation is allowed to ask you what kind of disability you have or whether you have certifications for your animal. They are allowed to ask you however, if it is a service animal and what tasks it helps you complete.
Alabama law and the ADA both prohibit public accommodations from charging a special admission fee or requiring you to pay any other extra cost to have your service animal with you. However, you may have to pay for any damage your animal causes.
There are laws in place that make it so you are not discriminated against when it comes to housing because of your service animal. You should be permitted full and equal access to housing, your animal should not hold you back.
The laws in Alabama are very similar to those in the rest of the United States. The ADA has taken many steps to protect individuals who have service animals and this has helped tremendously. You should never feel as if your service animal is holding you back, but only helping you progress.