Vermont Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Vermont law allows service dogs into public places and other assistance animals into housing.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

Under Vermont's public accommodations law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring service animals to all public accommodations, including stores, businesses, motels, restaurants, theaters, schools, and more. 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.

Which Animals Are Covered in Vermont and Under the ADA?

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that has been trained to perform disability-related tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. In some cases, a miniature horse may also qualify as a service animal. In addition to hearing dogs and seeing-eye dogs (a.k.a. guide dogs) service animals that must be allowed into public accommodations under the ADA include:

  • psychiatric service animals, which can help their handlers manage mental and emotional disabilities by interrupting self-harming behaviors, checking spaces for intruders, or providing calming pressure during 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 substances that could be dangerous (such as peanuts).

Vermont's public accommodations law does not include a definition of service animals. However, it does provide that people with disabilities may not be prohibited from entering public accommodations with their service animals. Public accommodations in Vermont must comply with both state and federal law.

Neither the ADA nor Vermont 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 conditions. Although these animals often have therapeutic benefits, they are not individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers. Under the ADA, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals.

Public Accommodations Defined in Vermont

Vermont defines public accommodations as schools, stores, restaurants, facilities, or establishments that offers goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, benefits, or accommodations to the public. Vermont's public accommodations law also applies to any person, organization, governmental entity, or other entity that operates, owns, or leases a public accommodation.

The ADA sets out a long list of facilities that qualify as public accommodations to which you may bring your service animal, including:

  • hotels and other lodging establishments
  • public transportation and terminals, depots, and stations
  • restaurants and other places that serve food and drink
  • any place of public gathering
  • gyms, bowling alleys, parks, zoos, and other places of exercise or recreation, and
  • social service centers, like senior centers, homeless shelters, and food banks.

Rules for Your Service Animal

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. An establishment may ask you only whether your dog is a service animal and what tasks it performs for you.

The ADA prohibits 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 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.

Service Animals in Vermont Housing

Vermont's unfair housing practices law prohibits discrimination in the sale or renting of property based on the renter or purchaser's use of specially trained animals. Landlords may not charge an additional security deposit.

In addition, 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 your 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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