Under Utah’s disability rights laws and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities have the right to be accompanied by their service animals in restaurants, hotels, stores, theaters, and other public accommodations. Public accommodations in Utah must comply with both state and federal law. Below, we explain which public accommodations are covered, which animals qualify as service animals, and some rules you may need to follow with your service animal.
In Utah, people with disabilities may be accompanied by their qualified service animals (see below) on all common carriers (forms of transportation, such as buses, trains, and airplanes), in all public buildings and facilities, and on all highways, walkways, streets, and sidewalks. Service animals must also be allowed in all places of amusement or resort to which the public is invited, and all places of public accommodation, including hotels, motels, and lodges. The law doesn’t further define what counts as a public accommodation.
Under the ADA, the definition of public accommodations is very broad, including all of the above public places and more. Churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious entities, however, are not considered public accommodations under the ADA. This is so even if the religious entity offers secular services, such as a day-care center that admits children whether or not they are members of or affiliated with the religious institution. Private clubs (member-controlled nonprofit groups that are highly selective, charge substantial membership fees, and were not created in order to avoid compliance with civil rights laws) are also not covered by the ADA. However, if a private club makes facilities available to nonmembers, it is subject to the ADA’s public accommodation rules as to those facilities.
Under Utah’s disability rights law, public accommodations must allow you to be accompanied by your qualified service animal. A qualified service animal is a dog that has been trained or is being trained to do work or tasks for the benefit of someone with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or mental disability. Animals other than dogs cannot be service animals under Utah law.
Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that has been trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. The tasks or work the animal does must be directly related to the person’s disability. In some cases, a miniature horse may also qualify as a service animal. Examples of service animals that must be allowed into public accommodations under the ADA include:
The ADA doesn’t include what some people call “emotional support animals”: animals that provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to those with psychiatric or emotional conditions. Although these animals often have therapeutic benefits, they are not individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers. Utah law specifically excludes animals who are used solely to provide emotional support, companionship, comfort, well-being, or crime deterrence. Neither the ADA nor Utah’s disability law cover these support animals.
Under the ADA, 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. Utah law encourages, but does not require, those accompanied by service animals to identify the animal with a service animal vest, laminated card, or other form of identification.
The ADA and Utah 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.
The ADA and Utah law allows a public accommodation to exclude your service animal 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. You are still entitled to enter the public accommodation even if your service animal is not allowed in.
Utah’s disability rights act prohibits housing discrimination against those with disabilities, including those who use service dogs. Landlords may charge those with service dogs a security deposit for damage or wear and tear on the property, but only if the landlord charges a similar deposit for others.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing accommodations against those who use service animals. You must be allowed full and equal access to all housing facilities, and may not be charged 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.
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.)