Montana Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Montana state law and federal law requires service dogs and animals to be allowed in public places.

Under Montana’s human rights law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring service animals to all "public accommodations," including stores, businesses, motels, restaurants, theaters, schools, and more. Public accommodations in Montana must comply with both state and federal law (the laws are similar but federal law requires landlords to allow emotional support animals in housing in some cases). Below, we explain which public accommodations are covered, which animals qualify as service animals, and some rules you may need to follow with your service animal.

What Are Public Accommodations in Montana?

In Montana, you may bring your service animal into any place that caters to the public (offers facilities, services, or goods to the general public). Montana’s public accommodations law includes a long list of examples, including hotels, inns, trailer parks, and campgrounds; restaurants, ice cream parlors, cafes, and bars; barbershops and salons; swimming pools, skating rinks, golf courses, and resorts; bathrooms and rest houses; theaters; and hospitals.

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

  • hotels and other lodging establishments
  • public transportation and terminals, depots, and stations
  • restaurants and other places that serve food and drink
  • service, sales, or rental establishments
  • any place of public gathering, such as an auditorium, convention center, or sports stadium
  • gyms, bowling alleys, zoos, parks, and other places of exercise or recreation
  • 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.

Which Animals Are Covered in Montana?

In Montana, a service animal is defined as a dog or other animal that is individually trained to provide assistance to someone with a disability. Similarly, under the ADA, a service animal is a dog (or in some cases, a miniature horse) that has been individually trained to perform disability-related tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. Examples of service animals that must be allowed into public accommodations under the ADA include:

  • hearing dogs, which alert their handlers to important alarms, doorbells, and other sounds
  • guide dogs, which help those who are visually impaired to move around
  • psychiatric service animals, which help their handlers with 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 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 (such as peanuts).

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

Rules for Your Service Animal

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 Montana 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 (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.

Service Animals in Montana Housing

Both the federal Fair Housing Act and Montana law prohibit discrimination in rental housing accommodations against those who use service animals. You must be allowed full and equal access to all housing facilities, and your landlord may not be charge you 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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