Kentucky Laws on Assistance Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Kentucky law allows assistance dogs in public places and housing, and the Fair Housing Act allows ESAs in housing.

By , J.D., UC Berkeley School of Law

Under Kentucky's public accommodation law 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, schools, and more. Public accommodations in Kentucky must comply with both state and federal law. 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.

How Service Animals Are Defined in Kentucky

Kentucky law requires all public accommodations to allow people with disabilities who are accompanied by assistance dogs. Kentucky doesn't further define "assistance dogs," but it does define disability to include physical and mental impairments, such as intellectual disabilities, organic brain syndrome, and emotional and mental illness. Therefore, Kentucky law applies both to dogs that assist handlers with physical tasks (like pulling a wheelchair or alerting to particular sounds) and to psychiatric service dogs.

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog (or sometimes a miniature horse) that has been trained to perform tasks for a person with a mental or physical disability. Examples of service animals that must be allowed into public accommodations under the ADA include:

  • hearing dogs, which alert their handlers to important sounds, such as alarms, doorbells, and other signals
  • guide dogs, which help those who are blind or visually impaired navigate safely
  • 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).

Neither the ADA nor Kentucky'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 Kentucky law, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals and dog guides. These laws also don't apply to pets.

Which Public Accommodations Must Allow Service Animals in Kentucky

Kentucky's assistance dog law applies to hotels, motels, restaurants or other eating establishments, and all public places of amusement, recreation, or resort. It also applies to public buildings, elevators, and transportation (as long as the dog does not take up a seat).

Under the ADA, the definition of public accommodations is also very broad. It includes places such as hotels, bus stations, restaurants, stores, theaters, gyms, zoos, libraries, schools, homeless shelters, and much more.

Rules for Your Service Dog

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.

The ADA and Kentucky 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.

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. An accommodation may also exclude your animal if it is not housebroken or out of control (and you cannot or won't take steps to control it).

Assistance Dogs and Service Animals in Kentucky Housing

Kentucky and federal law prohibit discrimination in rental and public housing accommodations against those who use assistance dogs and 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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