Utah Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Utah law protects your right to bring a service dog to all public places except religious organizations and private clubs.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

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 might need to follow with your service animal.

What Counts as a Public Accommodation in Utah?

In Utah, people with disabilities can be accompanied by their qualified service animals (see below) in all of the following places:

  • 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. (Utah Code § 26B-6-802(1-3).) The state law doesn't further define what counts as a public accommodation.

Under the ADA, the definition of public accommodation is very broad, including all of the above public places and more. But churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious entities aren't considered public accommodations under the ADA. Religious entities are exempt even if they offer secular services, such as a day-care center that admits children who aren't members of or affiliated with the religious institution. (42 U.S. Code § 12187.)

Private clubs (member-controlled nonprofit groups that are highly selective, charge substantial membership fees, and weren't created to avoid compliance with civil rights laws) are also not covered by the ADA. But if a private club makes facilities available to nonmembers, those facilities are subject to the ADA's public accommodation rules.

Which Animals Count as Service Animals in Utah?

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 can't be service animals under Utah law. (Utah Code § 26B-6-801(4).)

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that's 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. Sometimes, a miniature horse can also qualify as a service animal under the ADA (but not Utah 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, doorbells, and other signals
  • guide dogs, which help those who are blind or visually impaired navigate safely
  • psychiatric service animals, which help their handlers manage mental and 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 might also guard their handlers during seizure activity, and
  • allergen alert animals, which let their handlers know of the presence of foods or other substances that could be dangerous (such as peanuts).

Neither Utah law nor the ADA includes emotional support animals (ESAs) in the definition of service animals. Emotional support animals provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to those with psychiatric or emotional conditions.

Although ESAs often have therapeutic benefits, they're not individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers, so they don't qualify as service animals. Utah's public accommodation law specifically excludes animals used solely for emotional support, companionship, comfort, well-being, or crime deterrence.

Rules for Your Service Animal in Utah

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

Utah law doesn't require you to identify your service animals with a service animal vest, laminated card, or other form of identification. The ADA also doesn't require service animals to wear identifying vests, harnesses, or tags.

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, under Utah law, you can be held financially responsible for any damage your animal causes. (Utah Code § 26B-6-803(3).)

The ADA and Utah law both allow a public accommodation to exclude your service animal if it poses a direct threat to health and safety. For example, if your dog is aggressively barking and snapping at other customers, the facility can kick the dog out. Your animal can also be excluded if it's not housebroken or if it's out of control and you're unable to control your dog effectively.

Service Animals and ESAs in Utah Housing

Utah's disability rights act prohibits housing discrimination against those with disabilities, including those who use service animals. The state law also provides some protection for people with disabilities who have "support animals" as well.

Under the law, landlords can charge those with support animals a security deposit, but only if the landlord charges a similar deposit to those who don't have service or support animals. (Utah Code § 26B-6-803(1)(b).) The state law does allow property owners to ask you to pay for any damage your animal does to the property.

The federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, 3631) prohibits discrimination in housing accommodations against those who use service animals. You must be allowed full and equal access to all housing facilities and can't be charged extra for having a service animal (although you'll likely have to pay for any damage your animal causes). If your lease or rental agreement includes a "no pets" provision, it doesn't apply to your service animal.

Under the FHA, housing facilities and landlords must allow both service dogs and emotional support animals if having the animal is 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 a disability-related need for the animal. And to qualify for protection, your animal perform some type of service or alleviate the emotional effects of your disability. (For more information, see the Department of Housing and Urban Development's page on assistance animals.)

Updated February 23, 2024

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