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Disability Access Center
A student walks through campus with their service dog.

Service Animals and the ADA

Service animals can be defined as a dog or miniature horse that are trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task that the animal has been trained to perform must be related to the person’s disability. Animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the American with Disabilities Act.

It is important to note that a service animal can be trained to assist persons with psychiatric disabilities. For example, a dog can be specifically trained to sense an oncoming panic attack and put its paws on the person’s shoulders, helping them implement certain strategies to eliminate or lessen the panic attack.

When it is not clear what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Faculty and staff may ask two questions: Is the service animal required because of a disability? and What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Refusing Access to a Service Animal

Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove their service animal from the premises unless (1) the animal is out of control, and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the animal is not housebroken.

Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.

Please see Purdue University’s Operating Procedures for Service Animals on Campus.