New Jersey Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

New Jersey law allows service dogs for all types of disabilities in housing and public places.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

The laws in New Jersey protect the rights of people with disabilities who use service dogs. Under the state Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you can bring your service animal to all public accommodations—places like bars and restaurants or hotels and shopping centers. These laws also protect your right to have a service animal when using transportation services.

Both sets of laws offer broad protections to people with disabilities who use the following types of service animals to assist them:

  • guide or "seeing-eye" dogs that help people with visual impairments navigate safely
  • hearing dogs that alert those with hearing impairments to alarms, ringtones, and other important noises
  • seizure dogs that alert their handlers of impending seizures
  • animals that perform manual tasks, such as pushing elevator buttons, pulling wheelchairs, or holding and retrieving items, and
  • psychiatric service animals that can interrupt self-destructive or dangerous behavior, alert handlers who need to take medication, or diminish the effects of acute anxiety.

How Does New Jersey Law Define Service Animals?

Both federal and state laws in New Jersey specify what counts as a service animal. The laws are similar, but there are a few differences.

How New Jersey Law Defines Service Animals

In New Jersey, the LAD requires public accommodations to allow people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service or guide dogs. The law defines a guide dog as a dog specially trained by a recognized organization to assist someone who is blind or deaf.

Under New Jersey law, the definition of "service dog" is a dog that is individually trained to meet the requirements of a person's disability, including (but not limited to):

  • dogs that pull wheelchairs
  • dogs that retrieve dropped items
  • seizure dogs, and
  • dogs that do minimal protection or rescue work.

New Jersey law recognizes physical, mental, developmental, and psychological disabilities, so a dog that's individually trained to assist with any of these disabilities should qualify as a service dog.

How the ADA Defines Service Animals

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that's individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. And the tasks or work the dog does must be directly related to the person's disability. (In some circumstances, an individually trained miniature horse also qualifies as a service animal under the ADA.)

How the Law Treats Emotional Support Animals in New Jersey

Neither the ADA nor New Jersey's service animal law covers pets or emotional support animals (ESAs)—animals used by those with psychiatric or emotional disabilities to have:

  • a sense of safety
  • companionship, and
  • comfort.

These animals often have therapeutic benefits, but they don't qualify as service animals because they aren't trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers. Neither the ADA nor New Jersey law requires the owners of public accommodations to admit emotional support animals, only service animals.

What Kinds of Places Are Considered Public Accommodations in New Jersey?

Both New Jersey law and the ADA protect your right to access a public accommodation with your service animal. How each law defines "public accommodation" is similar but not identical.

Under the ADA, the definition of public accommodations is very broad. It includes all businesses and organizations that offer goods and services to the public or are open to the public, like:

  • hotels and other lodging establishments
  • public transportation and terminals, depots, and stations
  • restaurants, bars, and other places that serve food and drink
  • sales or rental establishments
  • service establishments
  • any place of public gathering, like an auditorium or convention center
  • Sports stadiums, theaters, and other places of entertainment and exhibit
  • 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, including on-campus housing and
  • social service centers, like senior centers and homeless shelters.

The New Jersey LAD also includes a long list of public accommodations that must allow service animals—everywhere from amusement parks and summer camps to doctors' offices and government agencies.

The only public places exempt from both laws include religious establishments and private clubs that meet specific criteria.

What Are the Rules for Service Animals in New Jersey?

The New Jersey LAD requires public accommodations to admit people with disabilities and their service dogs and treat them the same way as other patrons. For instance, you can't be asked to sit in a special area for people with pets, and you can't be charged an additional fee for having a service dog.

Your right to have your service dog with you is subject only to these conditions:

  • You must keep the dog in your custody at all times.
  • You can be required to pay for any damage your dog causes.

Under the ADA, your service animal can be excluded from public accommodations if it poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. For example, if your dog is aggressively barking and snapping at other customers, the facility can kick the dog out. Your dog can also be excluded if it's not house-trained.

New Jersey Housing Rights And Your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal

New Jersey's LAD prohibits discrimination in housing—whether rented, leased, or purchased—against those with disabilities, including those who use service dogs. You must be allowed full and equal access to all housing facilities. If you have a service dog, your landlord can't:

  • charge extra for having a service dog (although you'll likely have to pay for any damage your animal causes), or
  • enforce a "no pets" provision in your lease or rental agreement.

Under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), housing facilities must allow both service dogs and emotional support animals. The law requires that you have equal access to housing if you have a disability, and having the animal is necessary for you to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the home.

To fall under this FHA provision, you must have a disability, and you must have a disability-related need for the animal. In other words, the animal must do one of the following to qualify:

  • work
  • perform tasks or services, or
  • alleviate the emotional effects of your disability.

Like the state law in New Jersey, the FHA prohibits landlords from charging you more to have your service animal or ESA in your home.

Learn more about how the Fair Housing Act protects disabled renter's rights.

Updated April 14, 2023

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