Arkansas Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Arkansas state law and federal law together allow service dogs and psychiatric service animals in public places.

Under Arkansas’s service animal law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring service animals to all "public accommodations," including stores, businesses, motels, restaurants, theaters, schools, and more. Public accommodations in Arkansas 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 Service Animals Are Covered in Arkansas?

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog or miniature horse 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. Service animals include guide dogs, hearing dogs, and these animals as well:

  • psychiatric service animals, which help their handlers manage mental and emotional disabilities by, for example, interrupting self-harming behaviors, reminding handlers to take medication, checking spaces for intruders, or providing calming pressure during anxiety or panic attacks
  • seizure alert animals, which let their handlers know of impending seizures, and may also guard their handlers during seizure activity, and
  • allergen alert animals, which let their handlers know of foods or other substances that could be dangerous (such as peanuts).

While Arkansas state law defines service animals as animals that are specially trained to do work or tasks for someone with a disability, the law only applies to people with visual, hearing, or other physical disabilities. It appears that people whose service animals assist them with psychiatric or mental disabilities are not protected by state law. Remember, though, that public places must comply with both state law and the ADA, which does apply to psychiatric service dogs and other service animals that assist people with mental and psychiatric disabilities.

Neither the ADA nor Arkansas’s service animal law includes therapy dogs or what some people call “emotional support animals”: animals that provide a sense of safety or 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 Arkansas law, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals. These laws also don’t apply to pets.

What Are Public Accommodations?

In Arkansas, you may bring your service animal into any public accommodation, which includes:

  • streets and highways
  • sidewalks and walkways
  • public buildings and facilities
  • all public transportation and common carriers, such as boats, buses, streetcars, ferries, and trains
  • hotels, motels, and other lodgings
  • restaurants
  • educational facilities and dormitories
  • all places of public amusement, convenience, accommodation, or resort, and
  • any other building to which the general public is invited.

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
  • 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.

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.

The ADA and Arkansas 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.

What Types of Support Animals Are Allowed in Arkansas Housing?

Both the federal Fair Housing Act and Arkansas law prohibit discrimination in housing accommodations against those who use service animals. You must be allowed full and equal access to all housing facilities, and 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.

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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