Alabama Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Alabama law provides the right to have a service dog for physical or mental disabilities in public places and housing.

Under Alabama’s laws on the rights of people with disabilities and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring their service animals to all public accommodations, including stores, businesses, motels, restaurants, theaters, and more. People with disabilities may also bring their service animals into public buildings and spaces (such as parks and sidewalks), and onto public transportation and common carriers (buses, ferries, and so on).

Alabama law is not as detailed as the ADA. However, public accommodations in Alabama must comply with both sets of law, and both protect your right to bring a service animal with you. Learn below which animals qualify as service animals, which public accommodations must allow them, and rules you may need to follow with your service animal.

Service Animals Defined in Alabama

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. The ADA uses the same definition of service animals. In addition, the ADA covers miniature horses that are individually trained, in some circumstances.

Under these definitions, service animals include:

  • 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.

Psychiatric service dogs are also included (in 2011, Alabama expanded its service dog law beyond physical disabilities). These animals assist those with mental disabilities by, for example, interrupting self-harming behavior, scanning spaces for intruders, responding to anxiety attacks with calming pressure, or providing medication reminders. Service animals can do a variety of other tasks too, from alerting someone to potentially deadly allergens to tracking an autistic child who has wandered away.

Neither the ADA nor Alabama’s service animal law includes what some people call “emotional support animals”: animals that provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to those with psychiatric or emotional disabilities or conditions. Although these animals often have therapeutic benefits, they are not individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers. Under the ADA and Alabama law, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals. These laws also don’t apply to pets.

Which Public Accommodations Must Allow Service Animals in Alabama

Under the ADA, the definition of public accommodations is very broad. It includes:

  • 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.

Alabama law defines public accommodations more generally, to include all hotels and lodging places; all places of public accommodation, amusement, or resort; and other places to which the general public is invited.

Rules for Your Service Animal

Under the ADA, a public accommodation may not ask you questions about your disability or demand to see certification or other proof of your animal’s training or status. If it is not apparent what your service animal does, the establishment may ask you only whether it is a service animal, and what tasks it performs for you.

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.

Under the ADA, your service animal can be excluded from a public accommodation if it poses a direct threat to health and safety. For example, if your dog is aggressively barking and snapping at other customers, the facility can kick the dog out. Your animal may also be excluded if it is not housebroken or out of control (and you cannot or won’t take steps to control it).

Service Animals in Alabama Housing

Alabama law prohibits discrimination in leased or purchased housing accommodations against those with any physical disability. You must be allowed full and equal access to all housing facilities. Alabama's law on service animals in housing, however, applies only to guide dogs that assist those who are totally or partially blind. Your landlord may not charge you extra for having a guide dog (although you may have to pay for any damage your animal causes). If your lease or rental agreement includes a “no pets” provision, it does not apply to your guide dog.

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, housing facilities must allow service dogs and emotional support animals, if necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the home. To fall under this provision, you must have a disability and you must have a disability-related need for the animal. In other words, the animal must work, perform tasks or services, or alleviate the emotional effects of your disability in order to qualify. (For more information, see the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guidance on service animals.)

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