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Are Service Dogs Allowed in Restaurants? 2024 Guide

Jessica Kim

By Jessica Kim

a service dog vest on a long haired dachshund

Service dogs do invaluable work and are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)1. Under the ADA, service dogs can enter all areas of a facility where the general public is allowed. This means that you can let service dogs in restaurants.

However, not all businesses may be thoroughly familiar with the protections that service animals and their handlers have. So, here’s what you need to know about service dogs and their access to public spaces.

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How Are Service Dogs Defined?

The ADA defines service animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.2” Service animals can help people with varying disabilities. For example, they can work as guide dogs or task dogs that help people complete everyday tasks. They can also help calm people when they’re experiencing a panic attack or protect them if they’re having a seizure.

It’s important to note that service dogs aren’t classified as pets. This is one of the ways they’re different from emotional support dogs. Emotional support dogs are dogs that offer emotional connection and support to their owners. However, they are categorized as pets, so they don’t get as much clearance as service dogs. Therefore, businesses have the right to refuse emotional support animals. For example, airlines are required to accommodate service dogs, but they don’t have to accommodate emotional support animals.

Service Dogs in Restaurants

Service dogs are allowed to accompany their handlers inside restaurants. No business is allowed to refuse their entry, even if they have a restrictive pet policy. Since service dogs aren’t pets, they can go inside restaurants.

Just keep in mind that the service dog’s access is restricted to places where the general public is allowed. So, a service dog can sit with their handlers at restaurant tables. They can also enter public bathrooms. However, they wouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen.

Restaurants also can’t charge any additional fees for service dogs. So, you don’t have to pay for an extra seat or any sort of cleaning or maintenance fee. Restaurants may charge a service dog if they cause any damage to their property. However, this charge can only be made if the restaurant has a general policy of charging fees to all customers if they cause any damage.

It’s also important to keep in mind that while service dogs can enter restaurants, not all restaurants have to show the same level of accommodations. Some restaurants may be dog-friendly and offer a water bowl or have a menu for dogs. Other restaurants may not offer any additional accommodations for service dogs.

Can Businesses Refuse Service Dogs?

There are special cases in which a business may refuse a service dog. Service dogs in restaurants may be asked to leave if the dog is posing a threat to the people inside. Dogs that are showing extreme aggression or vicious behavior toward employees or guests may be asked to leave. Dogs that are out of control can also be requested to be removed.

In some cases, service dogs that are being very disruptive may also be excluded from a business. For example, if a dog is constantly barking during a movie, the movie theater staff can request for the dog to leave.

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Service animals are allowed inside restaurants and are able to go into any space that is open to the public. However, service dogs that are being disruptive or acting in a dangerous manner may be rightfully asked to leave. It’s important to know your rights and a service animal’s rights, so if you ever have any questions about service animals, you can contact the US Department of Justice for more information.

Featured Photo Credit: SR Productions, Shutterstock

Jessica Kim

Authored by

Jessica is a freelance writer who spends most of her day researching and writing while her fluffy Cavapoo, Nora, naps beside her. She loves and appreciates pets and animals because there’s so much to learn from them, and they do so much for people. As a dog mom, she understands the special connection that pet parents have with their pets. So, she loves sharing helpful information that people can use to better understand...Read more

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