Alaska Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

In Alaska, anyone with a disability can be accompanied by a certified service animal in a public place.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

Alaska makes it a crime to prevent someone with a disability from being accompanied by, or receiving assistance from, a certified service animal in a public place (which includes motels, restaurants, theaters, and more). Alaska's Human Rights Law defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity or a condition that may require the use of a prosthesis, special mobility equipment, or a service animal.

In addition, under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring service animals to all public accommodations. Public accommodations in Alaska must comply with both state and federal law. Below, we explain which public accommodations are covered, which animals qualify as service animals, and some rules you may need to follow with your service animal.

Which Animals Count as Service Animals in Alaska?

Alaska's Human Rights Law does not say which animals can count as service animals, but the state's criminal statutes, which make it illegal to prevent someone with a disability from being accompanied or assisted by a certified service animal, does provide a definition. A certified service animal is an animal trained to assist someone with a disability and certified by a school or training facility for service animals to have completed such training.

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that has been trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. The tasks or work the animal does must be directly related to the person's disability, such as:

  • alerting a handler of an impending seizure
  • reminding handlers to take medication, or
  • helping those who are visually impaired to navigate safely.

In some cases, a miniature horse may also qualify as a service animal. The ADA also covers psychiatric service animals, which can help their handlers manage mental and emotional disabilities by interrupting self-harming behaviors, checking spaces for intruders, or providing calming pressure during anxiety or panic attacks.

Neither the ADA nor Alaska 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 conditions. Although these animals often have therapeutic benefits, they are not individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers. Under the ADA and Alaska law, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals.

Public Accommodations Defined

Alaska's Human Rights Law defines public accommodations as places that offer goods, services, or facilities to, or that cater to, the general public. The law includes a list of places that qualify, such as:

  • restaurants, soda fountains, soft drink parlors, taverns and bars, ice cream parlors, and anywhere else that sells food or drinks
  • hotels, motels, inns, trailer parks, resorts, and campgrounds
  • barber shops and beauty parlors
  • transportation companies
  • bathrooms and rest houses
  • theaters
  • skating rinks, golf courses, and swimming pools, and
  • all other public amusement and business establishments.

The ADA sets out a long list of facilities that qualify as public accommodations to which you may bring your service animal, including:

  • hotels and other lodging establishments
  • public transportation and terminals, depots, and stations
  • restaurants and other places that serve food and drink
  • any place of public gathering, such as an auditorium or convention center
  • gyms, bowling alleys, and other places of exercise or recreation
  • libraries, museums, and educational institutions, and
  • social service centers, like senior centers, homeless shelters, and food banks.

Rules for Your Service Animal

Under the ADA, a public accommodation may not ask you questions about your disability or demand to see certification, identification, 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.

Alaska's criminal law applies only to "certified" service animals. However, the law doesn't indicate whether the person using the animal must show certification or other proof.

The ADA and Alaska law 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.

The ADA allows a public accommodation to exclude your service animal if it poses a direct threat to health and safety (or 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 if it is out of control and you are unable or unwilling to effectively control it. You are still entitled to enter the public accommodation even if your service animal is not allowed in.

When Assistance Animals Are Allowed in Alaska Housing

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing accommodations against those who use service animals. You must be allowed full and equal access to all housing facilities, and you may not be charged extra for having a service animal (although you may have to pay for damage your animal causes). If your lease or rental agreement includes a "no pets" provision, it does not apply to your service animal.

Alaska's Human Rights law prohibits housing discrimination against those with disabilities and, as explained above, this includes those who have a condition requiring use of a service animal.

Finally, pursuant to 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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