Service Dogs are Not Licensed in the United States. A Story and What the Law Really Says

This is long overdue. Most people already know, my family and I made the long trip to move from south Florida to upstate New York. We have been here for about a month. I had altitude sickness and worked a lot in order to keep everyone fed and I finally was able to rest.

On the last night of our trip, we stayed at a hotel. It was a suite and I had four of my kids with me. I traveled with a friend of mine for whom I got a job where I am working now. We were both going to start at the same time so we had to be up here. My husband and other four kids started out a few days later and finalized things with the mover.

My friend and her son are also autistic.

It said no pets but we all know service dogs are the exception to this rule. I had 2 and she had 1. This hotel was the Comfort Inn and Suites at Virginia Center in Glen Alen, Virginia. I thought this was perfect because they had a level two charging station on site and I would not have to rapid charge in the morning and we could cover as much ground as possible.

We checked in, it was late. The kids and I were tired. I mentioned we had service dogs. The person at the front desk said she would add that to our file. That was it. We had a good night.

Then came the next morning.

My friend knew I was sore from driving and the cold so she took the dogs out for a walk. The front desk person was badgering her. I was cleaning up and getting things packed up to leave. She came and told me what was going on. I thought I could be diplomatic.

I then walked down there and explained that I spoke to someone last night and that we had service dogs. She then complained that I filled out the form online wrong when reserving it for all of us. It was a suite and it can sleep more than how many people we had.

She then demanded to see insignia and a license. I explained to her that service animals are not licensed in the united state. I sent her an image of Lily and Mikey’s harnesses. I have them marked but it is not required. Just to make our lives easier.

They were going to get the manager. She also said that since she has a dog she knows there is a licensing registry for service dogs. I will address this in a bit.

I told her that I am a licensed Veterinary Technologist. I think I know a lot more about dogs and the laws surrounding them than she does. I also have a connective tissue disorder and am autistic. My friend is autistic and our children are neurodivergent.

She actually asked us why we needed 3. You cannot ask why we need the service dogs. You cannot ask what our disabilities are but I answered anyway. There were seven of us. We could have one for each person if we needed it.

Then she had the gall to tone police me and tell me people don’t raise their voices in there. My civil rights were being violated.

I then got sarcastic and asked if she wanted our medical records too. I then threw the card key on the desk. I said “thanks for the free breakfast you are denying me.” And we walked out and packed the kids in the car.

As I got the kids in there, they were watching us outside. Like it was unbelievable that I had to unplug my car from its charger and had to make sure the kids were safe before leaving.

What the Americans With Disabilities Act Actually Says About Service Animals

This person I had the displeasure of interacting with was full of misinformation and can really threaten someone’s life.

Here is what the ADA actually says about service animals:

ADA Requirements: Service Animals

Last updated: February 24, 2020

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, contain updated requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards).


This publication provides guidance on the term “service animal” and the service animal provisions in the Department’s regulations.

  • Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA.
  • A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
  • Generally, title II and title III entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.

How “Service Animal” Is Defined

Service animals are defined as dogs 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.

This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.

Some State and local laws also define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the relevant State attorney general’s office.

Where Service Animals Are Allowed

Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is allowed to go. For example, in a hospital it usually would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, or examination rooms. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment.

Service Animals Must Be Under Control

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

When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) 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.

  • Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.
  • A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.
  • Establishments that sell or prepare food must generally allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
  • People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons, treated less favorably than other patrons, or charged fees that are not charged to other patrons without animals. In addition, if a business requires a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets, it must waive the charge for service animals.
  • If a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by himself or his service animal.
  • Staff are not required to provide care for or supervision of a service animal.

Miniature Horses

In addition to the provisions about service dogs, the Department’s ADA regulations have a separate provision about miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. (Miniature horses generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.) Entities covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable. The regulations set out four assessment factors to assist entities in determining whether miniature horses can be accommodated in their facility. The assessment factors are (1) whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (2) whether the miniature horse is under the owner’s control; (3) whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight; and (4) whether the miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.

For more information about the ADA, please visit or call our toll-free number.

ADA Information Line 800-514-0301 (Voice) and 1-833-610-1264 (TTY) M-W, F 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Th 2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) to speak with an ADA Specialist. Calls are confidential.

For persons with disabilities, this publication is available in alternate formats. Duplication of this document is encouraged.

Originally issued: July 12, 2011

Last updated: February 24, 2020

How Our Dogs Were In Compliance

  • They were under our control
  • They are trained to perform tasks related to our neurodivergenices and my EDS

How the Hotel Staff was Not in Compliance

  • Demanded to know why we have service dogs
  • Asked what our diagnosis was
  • Demanded proof they were service dogs
  • Our dogs were neither out of control or not housebroken. They were being taken to the bathroom while my friend was being harassed about them.
  • They demanded licenses with serial numbers when there is no such thing

Other establishments need to learn from this situation. They made an already stressful situation worse. We were moving because we could no longer afford to live in Florida. These kids were being uprooted from one climate to another.

The only good thing is that they did not try to charge us their pet fee.


Beware of Scams Websites that Promise a “registry” For Service Dogs and ESA

All over social media, there are companies that want to take your money in exchange for registering your dog as a service dog or an emotional support dog.

These are scams, do not do it. Again, there is no such thing as a registry for service dogs. These companies send a vest, an ID with a photo of your dog with their made-up license numbers. These fool people who do not know any better. If you see these advertised on Facebook or anywhere else, do not do it. It’s the same thing as flushing your money down the toilet.

For an ESA, all you need is a note from your doctor saying that you or your child needs one. That is all that is needed for your apartment or home.

One thought on “Service Dogs are Not Licensed in the United States. A Story and What the Law Really Says

  1. Pingback: ≫ Los perros de servicio no tienen licencia en los Estados Unidos. Una historia y lo que realmente dice la ley → Fierce Autie

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