Michigan Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

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

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

Under Michigan law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities can bring their service animals to all "public accommodations," such as hotels, restaurants, stores, and museums.

These laws also require those who operate transportation services to allow service animals.

Michigan law and the ADA are similar in that 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 holding and retrieving items, pushing, and pulling
  • animals that help their users maintain physical stability and balance, and
  • psychiatric service animals, which can interrupt self-destructive or dangerous behavior, alert users to the need to take medication, or diminish the effects of acute anxiety.

What's the Definition of a Service Animal in Michigan?

The ADA defines a service animal as a dog that's 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. (28 C.F.R. § 36.104.) Michigan's service animal law uses the same definition.

Like the federal law, in some cases, a miniature horse individually trained in this way will also qualify as a service animal under Michigan law. However, the state law recognizes that miniature horses might be more difficult to accommodate and allows public accommodations to consider these factors in determining whether the animal can be accommodated:

  • 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.

Michigan law also protects service animals in training when the animal's raiser or trainer brings the animal to a public accommodation while training or socializing the animal. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.502c(3).)

Neither the ADA nor Michigan's service animal law includes what are often referred to as "emotional support animals" (ESAs). ESAs are animals that provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to people with psychiatric or emotional disabilities or conditions. Although these animals often have therapeutic benefits, they aren't individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers.

Under the ADA and Michigan law, owners of public accommodations aren't 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
  • service establishments, like barbershops and doctor's offices
  • any place of public gathering, such as an auditorium or convention center
  • 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 service animal performs for you aren't obvious, the public accommodation can ask you only two things:

  • whether the animal is a service animal, and
  • what tasks it does for you.

The facility can't do any of the following:

  • ask about or require documentation of your disability
  • require documentation of your animal's status or training, or
  • require a demonstration of the tasks your animal does for you.

A public accommodation can ask that your service animal be removed from the premises if it isn't housebroken or it's out of control and you're not controlling it effectively. If this happens, you're still entitled to use the accommodation without your service animal. You can't be asked to remove your animal because others are allergic to or afraid of the animal.

Under the law, your service animal must be under your control and wearing a harness, leash, or other tether (unless your disability prevents you from using one or it would interfere with the animal's ability to do its job). A public accommodation can't isolate you from other customers, treat you differently, or charge you 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 "assistance animals," if necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the home. Under the law, assistance animals include both service dogs and emotional support animals.

To be protected by this provision, you must have a disability and 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 to qualify.

Under the law, having an assistance animal in your home is considered a reasonable accommodation. That means housing providers can't refuse to allow your service animal or ESA because of "no-pet" policies. Your landlord also can't ask you to pay a pet deposit or higher rent because of your assistance animal.

(Learn more about your housing rights at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including how to file a complaint.)

Updated February 23, 2024

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