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. · UC Berkeley School of Law

Both New York law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect the rights of people with disabilities to bring their service dogs to all "public accommodations," which means places that are open to the public like stores, schools, and buses or taxis.

New York law and the ADA differ in some ways, but public accommodations in New York must comply with both sets of laws. If you have a service animal in New York, you're entitled to rely on whichever law provides the most protections. Read on to learn which animals qualify as service animals, which places must allow them, and how these laws treat emotional support animals.

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. Under the law, 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). For example:

  • a guide dog assists someone who's blind, or
  • a hearing dog assists a person with a hearing impairment.

Note that New York's service animal law applies only to dogs, not other animals.

The ADA defines a service animal similarly—as a dog that's individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. But under the ADA, a miniature horse can also sometimes qualify as a service animal. Whether your service animal is a dog or miniature horse, the tasks or work the animal can do must be directly related to your disability.

How Does New York Law Treat Emotional Support Animals (ESA)s?

The definition of service animal doesn't include emotional support animals (ESAs) under either New York law or the ADA. Emotional support animals provide companionship and emotional support that eases the symptoms or effects of a person's disability, and they can have therapeutic benefits. Emotional support animals can be any type of animal.

But emotional support animals don't have specialized training to aid their handlers, so they don't qualify as service animals under New York law or the ADA. Although both laws require owners of public accommodations to admit service animals (including psychiatric service dogs), neither law protects your right to have your emotional support animal with you in public. These state and federal service animal laws also don't apply to regular pets.

Where Must You Be Allowed to Take Your Service Dog in New York?

You have the right to take your service dog to any public accommodation in New York as defined by law. New York service dog laws consider a wide range of locations to be public accommodations, including all of the following:

  • public and private housing
  • public and private transportation
  • schools and educational institutions
  • government buildings
  • theaters (including cinemas and live playhouses)
  • places that sell food (like restaurants and grocery stores), and
  • other places to which the public is customarily invited or permitted, including places used for:
    • entertainment
    • business
    • resort, or
    • convenience.

But the ADA rules and New York service dog laws don't apply to flying with or being in an airport terminal with your assistance animal. Learn about your right to have your service dog or emotional support animal with you when you fly.

When Does New York Law Protect Your Right to Have an Emotional Support Animal?

Housing providers in New York are governed by the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). And your right to have an emotional support animal live with you is protected under the FHA—whether you're buying or renting just about any type of home, including all of the following types of dwellings:

  • condominiums
  • apartments
  • cooperatives
  • single-family homes
  • nursing homes
  • assisted living facilities
  • group homes
  • shelters (like emergency shelters and domestic violence shelters), and
  • dormitories.

The FHA requires housing providers to make "reasonable accommodations" for people with disabilities, and that includes having a service dog or emotional support animal live with you if you need one. But you must request the accommodation, and you can be asked to provide a letter from your health care provider stating that you need the ESA.

Under this federal housing law, service dogs and emotional support animals aren't considered pets. So, they can't be barred from your residence because of a "no pets" policy, and breed and size restrictions don't apply to ESAs or service dogs.

In the City of New York, the NYC Human Rights Law also protects against disability discrimination in housing—including protecting your right to have an ESA as a reasonable accommodation for your disability. Under the law, any animal that's legal to own in the city can be an emotional support animal. So, you can have a support turtle or ferret, but not an emotional support bat or bear under city health codes.

(Learn more about landlord-tenant laws in New York.)

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

A public accommodation isn't 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're unable to stop the behavior, the dog might have to leave.

And the FHA allows a housing provider to refuse a reasonable accommodation request for a service dog or emotional support animal in the following situations:

  • the specific animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, or
  • allowing the animal would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others.

Ultimately, under both federal laws and New York service dog laws, you can lose your right to have your service dog in a public accommodation or the right to have your ESA live with you if you can't keep the animal under control.

Can Fees or Documentation for a Service Dog or ESA Be Required?

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

If your disability isn't apparent, a housing provider can ask for documentation of your need for a service dog or emotional support animal. But the FHA prohibits landlords and homeowner associations (HOAs) from charging you extra (or making you pay a special deposit) to have your ESA or service dog in your home.

Different rules apply to having service dogs and emotional support animals at work. Learn more about when New York employers are required to allow dogs and other animals at work.

Updated March 28, 2023

Talk to a Disability Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Boost Your Chance of Being Approved

Get the Compensation You Deserve

Our experts have helped thousands like you get cash benefits.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you