Connecticut Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Connecticut law gives people with certain disabilities the right to take bring their service animals almost anywhere.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Connecticut's public accommodations law protect the rights of people with disabilities. Under these laws, you have the right to be accompanied by your service animal in restaurants, hotels, stores, theaters, and other places that are open to the public.

Connecticut's law is more limited than the ADA because it covers only dogs that assist those who are blind, deaf, or mobility-impaired. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-44.) The state law doesn't cover psychiatric service animals and service animals that assist those with other types of disabilities, as the ADA does. However, public accommodations in Connecticut must follow both state and federal law.

Read on to learn which public accommodations are covered, which animals qualify as service animals, and some rules you might need to follow with your service animal.

Which Animals Are Covered in Connecticut?

Connecticut's public accommodations law protects only those who use service or assistance dogs for certain disabilities. Those who are blind must be allowed to bring their guide dogs into public accommodations. The law also protects those who are deaf or have a mobility impairment and use assistance dogs.

Connecticut law doesn't protect people who use service dogs for other disabilities, such as psychiatric disabilities or intellectual disabilities. But the ADA does protect those with other disabilities, and public accommodations in Connecticut must comply with the ADA.

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that has been trained to perform disability-related tasks for the benefit of a person with a physical or mental disability. In some cases, a miniature horse can also qualify as a service animal. (28 C.F.R. § 36.104.)

In addition to guide dogs and hearing dogs, here are some examples of service animals that must be allowed into public accommodations under the ADA:

  • psychiatric service animals, which help their handlers manage mental and emotional disabilities and might be trained, for example, to do one or more of the following:
    • interrupt self-harming behaviors
    • remind handlers to take medication
    • check spaces for intruders, or
    • provide calming pressure during anxiety or panic attacks
  • seizure alert animals, which let their handlers know of impending seizures, and might 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).

Neither Connecticut law nor the ADA covers "emotional support animals" (ESAs), which aren't trained to perform specific tasks related to their handler's disabilities. Instead, the presence of an ESA provides a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to those with psychiatric or emotional conditions.

Although these animals often have therapeutic benefits, your right to bring your ESA into public places in Connecticut isn't protected by state or federal law. Your right to bring your pet to such places also isn't protected by law.

What Counts as a Public Accommodation in Connecticut?

Connecticut's public accommodations law gives people who are blind or deaf or have mobility impairments the right to bring their service animals on all modes of public transportation (such as buses, trains, and ferries). If you have one of these disabilities, the law also protects your right to have your assistance animal with you in all places of public accommodation.

A public accommodation is any place that caters to or offers goods, services, or facilities to the general public. Under Connecticut law, public accommodations include the following:

  • public buildings
  • commercial buildings and lots
  • hotels and inns
  • restaurants, and
  • places of amusement or resort.

Under the ADA, the definition of public accommodations is equally broad. But the federal law provides a couple of exceptions, including:

  • religious organizations, and
  • private clubs.

Religious entities, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques, aren't considered public accommodations under the ADA. This exception applies even if the religious entity offers secular services, such as a day-care center that admits children whether or not they're members of or affiliated with the religious institution.

The ADA also doesn't cover private clubs that meet the following definition: member-controlled nonprofit groups that are highly selective, charge substantial membership fees, and weren't created to avoid compliance with civil rights laws. But if a private club makes facilities available to nonmembers, it's subject to the ADA's public accommodation rules in those facilities.

Rules for Your Service Animal in Connecticut

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

Connecticut law requires public accommodations to admit guide dogs and assistance dogs only if they're wearing a harness or an orange-colored leash and collar. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-44(a).) But the ADA doesn't require your assistance animal to wear any type of harness or collar and leash that identifies it as a service dog.

The ADA and Connecticut law 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 might 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. For example, the facility can kick the dog out if your dog is aggressively barking and snapping at other customers. Your animal can also be excluded if it's not housebroken or if it's out of control and you're unable or unwilling to effectively control it. But you're still entitled to enter the public accommodation even if your service animal isn't allowed in.

Service Animals in Connecticut Housing

Connecticut law prohibits housing discrimination, including discrimination against those with physical, mental, or learning disabilities. The state's fair housing law also requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations (for example, by changing their usual rules and policies) if it's necessary for a person with a disability to enjoy and use the property. The law doesn't make any specific references to service animals.

Fortunately, the federal Fair Housing Act specifically prohibits discrimination in housing accommodations against those who use service animals. You must be allowed full and equal access to all housing facilities and can't be charged extra for having a service animal—although you'll likely have to pay for any damage your animal causes. If your lease or rental agreement includes a "no pets" provision, it doesn't apply to your guide or service dog.

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, housing providers must also allow emotional support animals when they are necessary for someone with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the home. To fall under this provision, both of the following must be true:

  • you have a disability, and
  • you have a disability-related need for the animal.

For instance, the animal must alleviate the emotional effects of your disability to qualify. (For more information, see the Department of Housing and Urban Development's guidance on assistance animals.)

Updated February 23, 2024

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