New York Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals in Public Places

New York and federal law requires service dogs, but not emotional support animals, to be allowed in public places.

By , J.D.
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Under New York law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring their service dogs to all "public accommodations," such as restaurants, museums, hotels, and more. These laws also requires those who operate public and private transportation (such as taxis) to allow service animals.

New York law and the ADA differ in some ways, but public accommodations in New York must comply with both sets of laws, and their patrons are entitled to rely on whichever law provides the most protections. Read on to learn which animals qualify as service animals, which public accommodations must allow them, and special rules that may apply.

Which Animals Qualify as Service Animals in New York?

New York's Civil Rights Law requires public facilities to allow guide dogs, service dogs, and hearing dogs. A service dog is a dog that has been, or is being, trained to work or perform tasks for a person with a disability (including psychiatric disabilities). A guide dog is a dog that has been, or is being, trained to assist a person who is blind, and a hearing dog is a dog that is being or has been trained to assist a person with a hearing impairment. Note that New York law applies only to dogs, not other animals.

The ADA defines a service animal in the same way: as a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. (In some cases, a miniature horse may also qualify as a service animal under the ADA.) The tasks or work the animal does must be directly related to the person's disability.

The ADA or New York definition does not include what some 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 trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers. Under the ADA and New York law, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service dogs (which includes psychiatric service dogs). These laws also don't apply to regular pets.

Which Public Accommodations Must Allow Service Animals in New York?

Under New York law, the definition of public accommodations is very broad. It includes:

  • all public and private housing accommodations
  • all public and private transportation
  • all schools and educational institutions
  • all buildings to which the public is invited or permitted, including government buildings
  • all theaters (including cinemas and live playhouses)
  • all places that sell food, and
  • all other places of public accommodation, entertainment, business, resort, or convenience to which the public is customarily invited or permitted.

Under the ADA, a public accommodation covers many types of facilities, including:

  • hotels and other lodging establishments
  • places that serve food and drink
  • service establishments
  • any place of public gathering, such as an auditorium or convention center
  • public transportation stations
  • recreational facilities, such as zoos and parks
  • educational institutions, and
  • social service centers.

Remember, you are allowed to bring your service dog if the public accommodation you wish to enter with your service animal appears on either of these lists.

What if a Service Dog Poses a Threat or Behavior Problem?

A public accommodation is not required to allow your service animal to remain if it poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. If, for example, your service dog is growling and lunging at other patrons, and you are unable to stop the behavior, the dog might have to leave.

Can Fees or Documentation for a Service Dog Be Required?

In New York, a public accommodation may ask you if your dog is a service animal, if it's not clear. However, you may not be required to present a license, document, or other proof that your animal is a service animal. A public accommodation may not require you to pay a fee or any extra charge for having a service animal.

Different rules apply to when you are allowed to bring service dogs and other assistance animals to work. For more information, see Nolo's article on when New York employers are required to allow dogs and other animals at work.

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