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.

Under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination 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.

Both sets of law offer broad protections to people with disabilities who use service animals to assist them, including:

  • guide or “seeing-eye” dogs who help people with visual impairments navigate safely
  • hearing dogs who alert those with hearing impairments to alarms, ringtones, and other important noises
  • seizure dogs, who alert their handlers of impending seizures
  • animals that perform manual tasks, such as pushing elevator buttons, pulling wheelchairs, and holding and retrieving items, 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.

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 Does New Jersey Law Define Service Animal?

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) requires public accommodations to allow people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service or guide dogs. A guide dog is a dog specially trained by a recognized organization to assist someone who is blind or deaf. A service dog is dog that has been individually trained to meet the requirements of a person’s disability, including dogs that pull wheelchairs, 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 is individually trained to assist with any of these disabilities should qualify as a service dog.

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. (In some circumstances, a miniature horse who is individually trained also qualifies as a service animal under the ADA.) The tasks or work the animal does must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Neither the ADA nor New Jersey’s service animal law includes pets or 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 New Jersey law, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals.

Which Public Accommodations Must Allow Service Animals

Under 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 New Jersey LAD also includes a long list of public accommodations that must allow service animals, from amusement parks and pool halls to restaurants, stores, hotels, meeting halls, auditoriums, arenas, libraries, and schools.

Rules for Your Service Animal

The New Jersey LAD requires public accommodations to allow people with disabilities who use service dogs, 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.
  • You can’t be charged an additional fee for having a service dog.

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.

Service Animals in New Jersey Housing

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, and your landlord can not be charged extra for having a service dog (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 dog.

Under 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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