Service Animals in Public Spaces

Helping businesses understand working service animals
A person who is blind, petting their service dog

What Is a Service Animal?

Much more than just a dog

Scenario 1: A cat in the mall

A person is walking through a shopping mall accompanied by a cat on a leash. A security guard notices and approaches them to advise of the “no pets” policy in the mall. The person states that the cat is their service animal and it alerts them of panic attacks. Should the security guard allow them to go on their way?

Think about it. What needs to happen?

The 2011 ADA update for service animals does not allow service animals to be cats. It only allows service animals to be dogs, apart from miniature horses. The guard could let the person know of this limitation of the law and politely request that the patron take the cat off the premises. 

The takeaway

The guard should tell the person that they are more than welcome to return to the mall without the cat.

Scenario 2: Is that a horse?

A person followed by a small horse approaches the gate at a local car show. The ticket taker explains that animals are not allowed in the venue. The person explains that they have a mobility disability and that this service animal provides them with stability while walking. Should the ticket taker allow the person and the horse to enter?

Think about it. What needs to happen?

Miniature horses are an exception under the ADA, and a person with a disability should be allowed to use one. In addition, the person has already explained to the ticket taker that they have a disability and what task the miniature horse provides.

The takeaway

Absolutely, the ticket taker should let the person and the small horse enter the car show.

The scenarios, including all names, characters, and incidents portrayed on this page are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, or products is intended or should be inferred.