Oregon Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

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

By , J.D.
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Under Oregon's disability discrimination law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring assistance animals to all "public accommodations," including businesses, motels, restaurants, stores, theaters, schools, government buildings, and more. Public accommodations in Oregon must comply with both state and federal law. Below, we explain which public accommodations are covered, which animals qualify as assistance animals, and some rules you may need to follow with your service animal.

What Are Public Accommodations?

In Oregon, you may bring your assistance animal into any place of public accommodation. Public accommodations include places that are open to the public and owned by the government; services that are offered to the public and provided by a governmental body; and places and services that offer the public accommodations, facilities, goods, services, lodging, amusements, transportation, and so on. For example, restaurants, shops, hotels, service establishments, hospitals, and arenas all fall within this definition. However, Oregon law specifically doesn't cover state hospitals, private clubs, and certain correctional facilities.

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

Which Animals Are Covered?

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that has 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 may also qualify as a service animal under the ADA, but not under 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 those with mental or emotional disabilities by, for example, 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 may also guard their handlers during seizure activity, and
  • allergen alert animals, which let their handlers know of foods that could be dangerous (such as peanuts).

Neither the ADA nor Oregon's service animal law includes what some people 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 individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers. Under the ADA and Oregon law, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals.

Rules for Your Service Animal

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

The ADA and Oregon law 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. However, you may have to pay for any damage your animal causes.

Under the ADA, your service animal can be excluded from a public accommodation if it poses a direct threat to health and safety (or example, if your dog is aggressively barking and snapping at other customers, the facility can kick the dog out). Your animal may also be excluded if it is not housebroken, or if it is out of control and you are unable or unwilling to effectively control it.

Service Animals in Oregon Housing

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in rental housing accommodations against those who use service animals. You must be allowed full and equal access to all housing facilities, and your landlord may not charge you extra for having a service animal (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 animal.

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 for an accommodation in the form of a service or assistance animal. This documentation may be provided by a physician or other medical professional. However, your landlord may not ask you for documentation if your disability and need for a service or assistance animal are readily apparent or the landlord already knows about them. If, for example, you are blind and use a guide dog for navigation, your landlord probably can't request documentation.

Pursuant to 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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