Hawaii Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Hawaii state law and federal law provide broad protections for people with disabilities to have their service animals in housing or public places.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

Below, we explain which animals qualify as service animals in Hawaii, where service animals are allowed, and some rules you may need to follow with your service animal.

What Counts as a Service Animal in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, a service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or tasks to benefit someone with a disability, including a intellectual, mental, sensory, or physical disability.

Under the ADA, the definition is roughly the same with a few twists. The tasks or work the service animal does must be directly related to the person's disability. And in some cases, a miniature horse may also qualify as a service animal.

Examples of service animals under Hawaii's social services law and under the ADA include:

  • psychiatric service animals, which help their handlers manage mental and emotional disabilities by, for example, interrupting self-harming behaviors 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 substances that could be dangerous
  • hearing dogs, which alert their handlers to important sounds, such as alarms and doorbells, and
  • guide dogs, which help those who are blind or visually impaired navigate safely.

Neither the ADA nor Hawaii law covers 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.

How Are Public Accommodations Defined in Hawaii?

Hawaii's definition of a "public accommodation" (where people can take their service dogs) includes:

  • all forms of public transportation and common carriers, including buses, trains, ferries, airplanes, and cars
  • hotels and lodging places
  • all places of public amusement, resort, or accommodation, and
  • any other place to which the general public is invited.

The ADA is equally broad and 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
  • restaurants and other places that serve food and drink
  • any place of public gathering or place of exercise or recreation
  • libraries, museums, and educational institutions, and
  • social service centers, like senior centers, homeless shelters, and food banks.

What Are the Rules Regarding Public Accommodations and Service Animals in Hawaii?

Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Hawaii's public accommodations law, people with disabilities have the right to be accompanied by their service animals in restaurants, hotels, stores, theaters, and other public accommodations.

Under the ADA and Hawaii law, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals. In fact, Hawaii law explicitly excludes companion and comfort animals, unless the animal meets the definition of a service dog and is accompanying someone to perform the tasks for which the dog has been individually trained. These laws also don't apply to pets. Public accommodations in Hawaii must comply with both state and federal law.

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 Hawaii 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 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 Are the Rules for Animals in Hawaii Housing?

Hawaii's fair housing law prohibits housing discrimination based on disability and requires property owners to make reasonable accommodations to allow those with disabilities to use and enjoy their housing, which could include allowing service animals. However, the law provides that, if the reasonable accommodation includes a service animal, the property owner may impose reasonable restrictions.

Similarly, 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 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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