Assistance Dogs: Exemptions From Local Regulations

Specially trained assistance dogs are often granted exemptions from local requirements that are imposed on other dogs. Some laws don't exempt all service dogs; they cover only guide dogs, or only guide and hearing dogs.

Licenses

Virtually all cities give free licenses to guide and signal dogs, and more and more are including service dogs. In some states (Connecticut and Michigan, for example), state law guarantees free licenses. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 287.291; Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 22-345.) If you qualify for a free license, remember that you still must go through the motions of getting the license. Only the fee is waived; you must still show that the dog has had required vaccinations. You must also renew the license when it expires.
Some states (Ohio and North Carolina, for example) make this easier by issuing free, permanent licenses for assistance dogs. Owners don't have to worry about renewing the license every year.

Pooper-Scooper Laws

Many pooper-scooper laws (New York's and San Francisco's, for example) don't apply to guide, hearing, or service dogs. (N.Y. Pub. Health Law § 1310; S.F. Health Code, art. 1, § 40.) Unfortunately, zealous police officers trying to enforce these laws may not always know, or be willing to be told, that assistance dogs are exempt. In San Francisco, for example, a policeman ignored a blind woman's protests that the law exempted her. As a large lunch-time crowd gathered, the officer forced the woman to clean up her guide dog's droppings and take them across the street to a garbage can. She sued and received a $17,000 settlement from the city for emotional trauma. (San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 16, 1988.)

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