Michigan Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Michigan law and federal law allow service dogs to most public places.

By , J.D.

Under Michigan law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring their service animals to all "public accommodations," such as hotels, restaurants, stores, museums, and more. These laws also require those who operate transportation services to allow service animals.

Michigan law and the ADA are similar; both sets of law offer broad protections to people with disabilities who use service animals to assist them, including:

  • guide dogs who help people with visual impairments navigate safely
  • hearing dogs who alert those with hearing impairments to important sounds, such as phone ringtones, doorbells, and alarms
  • animals that help alert their handlers to impending seizures (and protect their handlers during seizures)
  • animals that assist with pushing, pulling, and holding and retrieving items
  • animals that help their users maintain physical stability and balance, and
  • psychiatric service animals, who can interrupt self-destructive or dangerous behavior, alerts users to the need to take medication, or diminish the effects of acute anxiety.

What Is the Definition of a Service Animal in Michigan?

The ADA defines a service animal as a dog that is individually 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. Michigan's service animal law uses the same definition.

In some cases, a miniature horse that is individually trained in this way will also qualify as a service animal. However, the law recognizes that these animals may be more difficult to accommodate, so in Michigan, a public accommodation may consider these factors in determining whether it can accommodate the animal:

  • the size and weight of the horse
  • the handler's ability to control the horse
  • whether the horse is housebroken, and
  • whether allowing the horse into a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements.

Neither the ADA nor Michigan's service animal law includes what are often referred to as "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 Michigan law, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals. These laws also don't apply to pets.

Which Public Accommodations Must Allow Service Animals

Under both Michigan law and the ADA, the definition of public accommodations is very broad. It includes:

  • 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.

The ADA establishes a civil right to bring your service animal into a public accommodation. Michigan's service animal law is included in its penal code, which makes it a misdemeanor to deny you and your service animal access to public accommodations.

Rules for Your Service Animal

If the tasks your animal performs for you are not obvious, the public accommodation may ask you only whether the animal is a service animal, and what tasks it does for you. The facility may not ask about or require documentation of your disability, require documentation of your animal's status or training, or require your animal to demonstrate its work.

Your service animal may be asked to leave if it isn't housebroken or it is out of control and you are not controlling it effectively. If this happens, you are still entitled to use the accommodation without your service animal. You may not be asked to remove your animal because others are allergic to or afraid of the animal.

Your service animal must under your control and wearing a harness, leash or other tether (unless that would interfere with the animal's ability to do its job). You may not be isolated from other customers, treated differently, or charged a fee because you use a service animal.

Service Animals in Housing in Michigan

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, landlords and 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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