Oregon Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Where Oregon and federal laws allow you to bring your assistance animal or service dog.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

People with disabilities have the right to bring assistance animals to all "public accommodations," thanks to Oregon's disability discrimination law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under these laws, service animals must be admitted to businesses like motels and restaurants, as well as schools and government buildings.

Public accommodations in Oregon must comply with both state and federal law. Read on to learn:

  • which public accommodations are covered
  • which animals qualify as assistance animals, and
  • the rules you need to know when you have your service animal in public.

We'll also look at how state and federal laws treat emotional support animals (ESAs) in Oregon.

What Are Public Accommodations in Oregon?

In Oregon, you can bring your assistance animal into any place of public accommodation. The definitions of public accommodation under state and federal law differ a bit.

Oregon state law defines public accommodations as places and services that offer accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges to the public in the form of:

  • goods and services
  • lodging
  • amusements
  • transportation, and
  • other forms.

The definition also includes any government-owned place open to the public and services offered to the public by any governmental body.

For example, under Oregon law, many places that don't usually admit pets, like restaurants and hospitals, fall within this definition and must accept your assistance animal. But Oregon law specifically excludes state hospitals, private clubs, and certain correctional facilities from having to allow assistance animals.

Under the ADA, the definition of public accommodations is both broad and detailed. It includes:

  • public transportation and terminals, depots, and stations
  • restaurants and other places that serve food and drink
  • hotels and other places that offer lodging
  • sales or rental establishments
  • service businesses and repair shops
  • any place of public gathering, such as an auditorium or convention center
  • places of entertainment and exhibit, like theaters or sports stadiums
  • gyms and other places of exercise or recreation
  • recreational facilities, such as zoos and parks
  • places where items are collected or displayed, including libraries and museums
  • educational institutions, including public and private schools, and
  • social service centers, like senior centers, homeless shelters, and food banks.

Which Animals Are Covered Under Service Animal Laws in Oregon?

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that's been individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. Oregon law uses the same definition but uses the term "assistance animals" rather than service animals. (In some cases, a miniature horse can also qualify as a service animal under the ADA, but not Oregon law.)

Examples of service animals that must be allowed into public accommodations under the ADA include:

  • hearing dogs, which alert their handlers to important sounds, such as alarms and doorbells
  • guide dogs, which help those who are visually impaired to navigate safely
  • psychiatric service animals, which help people with mental or emotional disabilities and are trained to perform specific tasks, including any of the following:
    • interrupting self-harming behaviors
    • reminding handlers to take medication
    • checking spaces for intruders, or
    • providing calming pressure during anxiety or panic attacks
  • seizure alert animals, which let their handlers know of impending seizures and might also guard their handlers during seizure activity, and
  • allergen alert animals, which let their handlers know when food and other substances that could be dangerous to the handler are nearby (such as peanuts).

Emotional Support Animals vs. Assistance Animals in Oregon

Animals that provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to those with psychiatric or emotional disabilities or conditions are often referred to as emotional support animals. An ESA can be a dog or any other animal and requires no training to provide therapeutic benefits to its owner.

But because these animals aren't individually trained to perform specific tasks for a disabled person, the ADA doesn't cover emotional support animals in public accommodations. Oregon law also excludes ESAs from its protections for "assistance animals." So, the owners of public accommodations in Oregon aren't required to admit emotional support animals—only service animals.

Oregon's Service Animal Rules: Your Rights and Responsibilities

Under the ADA and Oregon law, a public accommodation can't question you about your disability or demand to see certification, identification, or other proof of your service animal's training or status. If what your service animal does isn't apparent, the establishment can ask you only whether it's a service animal and what tasks it performs for you.

The ADA and Oregon law both prohibit public accommodations from charging a special admission fee or requiring you to pay any other extra cost to have your service animal with you.

Under the ADA, there are times when your service animal can be excluded from a public accommodation, like if:

  • your animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others (for example, aggressively barking and snapping at other customers)
  • your animal isn't housebroken, or
  • your animal is out of control, and you're unable (or unwilling) to effectively control it.

Under these laws, you can be held responsible for any damage your service animal causes.

Housing Protections for People With ESAs and Assistance Animals in Oregon

Although the ADA doesn't cover housing rights, the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits discrimination based on disability—it protects the rights of people with disabilities to have service animals and emotional support animals in most housing accommodations. The FHA only exempts the following types of housing from having to allow emotional support animals:

  • owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units
  • single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, and
  • housing operated by religious organizations or private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

Under the FHA, housing facilities must allow service dogs and emotional support animals if the animal is necessary for someone with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the home. To fall under this provision, you must have both:

  • a disability, and
  • a disability-related need for the animal.

In other words, your animal must alleviate the emotional effects of your disability or work or perform tasks or services for you to qualify.

Under the FHA, your landlord can't charge you extra for having a service animal or ESA (although you'll still likely have to pay for damage your animal causes). If your lease or rental agreement includes a "no pets" provision, it doesn't apply to your emotional support animal or service dog.

If your landlord has a no-pets policy, you can be asked to provide reliable documentation of your disability and the relationship between your disability and your need to have your service animal or ESA in your home. This documentation can be provided by your doctor or another medical professional.

But your landlord can't ask you for documentation if your disability and need for a service dog or emotional support animal is readily apparent or the landlord already knows about them. If, for example, you're blind and use a guide dog for navigation, your landlord probably can't request documentation.

(For more information, see the Department of Housing and Urban Development's guidance on service animals in housing.)

Updated May 10, 2023

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