Ohio Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Ohio has two laws that allow assistance animals in public accommodations and housing.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

People with disabilities in Ohio have the right to bring their service animals to all public accommodations. Both state law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect your right to access all places to which the public is invited, such as:

  • shopping centers
  • hotels
  • hospitals and
  • libraries.

These laws also protect your right to use transportation services with your service animals.

State law and federal law define "service animals" differently, but public accommodations in Ohio must comply with both sets of laws. And if you're disabled, you can rely on whichever law provides you the most protections.

Read on to learn which service animals are covered by Ohio law and the ADA—including how these laws treat emotional support animals—and which public accommodations must allow you to bring your assistance animal.

How Laws Define Assistance Animals in Ohio

There are federal and state laws that protect your right to bring a service animal to a public accommodation, and they're all a little different. Ohio has two different sets of laws on service animals and public accommodations. Each law describes which animals qualify for protection differently.

Ohio Revised Code's laws permit "assistance dogs" to accompany people with disabilities into public accommodations. Under this law, assistance dogs must be trained by a nonprofit special agency, and are limited to the following:

  • guide dogs trained to assist a blind person
  • hearing dogs trained to assist someone who is deaf or hearing-impaired, and
  • service dogs trained to assist someone who is mobility-impaired.

Under this definition, psychiatric service animals don't qualify, nor do animals trained to assist with other disabilities, such as:

  • a seizure alert animal who assists someone with epilepsy
  • an animal that alerts someone with diabetes of low blood sugar, or
  • an animal trained to detect allergens.

Ohio's Administrative Code, which interprets the state's civil rights laws, has a much broader definition of service animals—and this law also applies to public accommodations. Under the Administrative Code, people with disabilities may bring all "animal assistants" into places of public accommodation.

Under this law, an animal assistant is any animal that assists a person with a disability. The examples provided include:

  • a hearing dog
  • a guide dog, and
  • a monkey that retrieves things.

Because the definition of disability in the Administrative Code includes both physical and mental impairments, this provision of the law appears to include psychiatric service animals and animals trained to perform other services for those with disabilities.

Under the ADA, a service animal is simply 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 can 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.

Are Emotional Support Animals Covered by Assistance Animal Laws in Ohio?

Neither Ohio law nor the ADA covers emotional support animals (ESAs) or pets. ESAs are different than service dogs in the following ways:

  • they can be any kind of animal, and
  • they aren't trained to perform a specific task for someone with disabilities.

Emotional support animals are used to provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to those with psychiatric or emotional conditions.

Emotional support animals often have therapeutic benefits, but their lack of training means they don't qualify as service animals under the ADA or Ohio law. As a result, the owners of public accommodations don't have to admit your emotional support animal. Ohio law and the ADA only protect your right to have a service animal or trained animal assistant that aids with your disabilities.

Which Public Accommodations in Ohio Are Required to Admit Your Animal Assistant?

The Ohio Administrative Code defines public accommodations to include any place that offers accommodations, facilities, or advantages to the public. It lists many types of establishments that fit the bill—everything from hotels and restaurants to retail malls and video arcades.

The ADA definition of public accommodations includes most businesses and nonprofits that serve the public. Like Ohio law, the ADA covers hotels and restaurants, plus all the following:

  • public transportation terminals, depots, and stations
  • privately operated transit, including taxis and ride-hailing services
  • sales or rental establishments
  • service establishments, including repair shops and garages
  • any place of public gathering, such as a convention center
  • movie theaters, sports stadiums, and other places of entertainment and exhibit
  • gyms, skating rinks, and other places of exercise or recreation
  • doctors offices, hospitals, and other health care facilities
  • recreational facilities like zoos and parks
  • museums, libraries, and other places where items are collected or displayed publicly
  • daycare centers, schools, and other educational institutions, and
  • social service centers, including shelters.

Only religious organizations and private clubs that meet certain criteria are exempt from the ADA's public accommodation access rules. And although many public accommodations can choose to allow your emotional support animal, the laws in Ohio don't require it.

(Learn when you might be able to bring your emotional support animal to work.)

Ohio's Rules for Service Animals in Public Places

If you choose to register your service dog, Ohio allows you to get a permanent registration tag. Although owners of other dogs must pay to register their animals, it's free to register a service dog in Ohio—but you'll need to show proof by certificate or other means to qualify.

When you take your assistance animal to a public place, the establishment owner or staff can ask if the animal is a service animal and which tasks the animal is trained to perform. But they're not allowed to ask you questions about your disability or your animal's credentials.

You can't be charged extra to bring your service animal or animal assistant to any public accommodation in Ohio. But you can be asked to remove the animal if it poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others—for instance, if your service dog is growling and lunging at other patrons, and you can't get it under control. And you'll likely be required to pay for any damage your animal causes.

Legal Protections for Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals in Ohio Housing

Under Ohio's Administrative Code, people with disabilities who use animal assistants (trained guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service dogs) are entitled to have those animals with them on any premises they:

  • lease
  • rent
  • purchase, or
  • sublet.

Your landlord can't require you to pay extra to have a service animal, although you're responsible for any damages your service animal causes to the property or to another person.

And unlike the ADA, the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) applies to all types of service dogs, including seizure dogs and emotional support animals.

The FHA requires housing facilities to allow your ESA or service dog if:

  • you have a disability
  • you have a disability-related need for the animal, and
  • having the animal is necessary for you to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the home.

To meet this standard, your animal must do one or more of the following:

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

Learn more about your rights as a disabled renter.

Updated April 21, 2023

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