We know being compliant with service animal regulations is important to food establishment owners and managers, but they are often complicated to navigate. The information provided below contains answers to frequently asked questions regarding service animals and additional resources including how you can request a free reminder decal for patrons to display on the front door or window of your business.
What laws pertaining to service animals apply to my food establishment?
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is a dog* that has been individually trained to aid an individual living with a disability. The tasks performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. *Miniature horses, in some instances, are allowed according to Department of Justice regulations.
N.H.RSA Chapter 167-D and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) focus on private businesses who provide goods or services, regardless of size. These private businesses are known as public accommodations. There are many different types of public accommodations, which include, but are not limited to retail food stores, hotels, restaurants, theaters, and bars. It is important to note that persons who have non- apparent disabilities such as asthma or allergies to animals may also be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In New Hampshire, no person shall bring any animal into any restaurant or any store that sells food, and no person shall allow any animal to enter in any store that sells food, except for service animals. Exceptions may be made for restaurants with outdoor seating under certain conditions, or for a restaurant owner’s properly disciplined companion dog inside his or her place of business, see N.H.RSA 466:44 for more information about these exceptions.
How do you know if a service animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?
When it is not obvious what service a dog provides, federal law limits the questions a business owner or employee can ask. When a person with a service animal enters a public facility or place of public accommodation, the person should not be asked about the nature or extent of their disability. Only two questions may be asked:
1. Is the dog required because of a disability?
2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
If the answer to the first question is “yes” and the tasks that the animal has been trained to perform are directly related to the person’s disability, then the animal is considered a service animal under the ADA.
A public accommodation or facility is not allowed to ask for documentation or proof that the animal has been trained or licensed as a service animal. In addition, service animals are not required to wear a vest or tag identifying them as a service animal.
Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?
No. These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. To qualify as a service animal under the ADA, the animal must be trained to perform a specific job or task related to the person’s disability.
NOTE: There are organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA, and the
U.S. Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that a dog is a service animal.
Are stores required to allow service animals to be placed in a shopping cart?
Generally, the dog must stay on the floor, or the person must carry the dog. For example, if a person with diabetes has a glucose alert dog, the person may carry the dog in a chest pack so it can be close to their face to allow the dog to smell their breath to alert them of a change in glucose levels.
Are restaurants, bars, and other places that serve food or drink required to allow service animals to be seated on chairs or allow the animal to be fed at the table?
No. Seating, food, and drink are provided for customers’ use only. The ADA gives a
person with a disability the right to be accompanied by his or her service animal, but covered entities are not required to allow a service animal to sit or be fed at the table.
How should I let the public know my business welcomes service animals, but otherwise does not allow pets on the premises?
To help business owners and managers in complying with applicable laws addressing
service animals in public places, the Legislature authorized the Secretary of State and the Governor’s Commission on Disability to produce a free decal that can be displayed on the front door or window of your business. The “NOTICE” decal states “Service Animals Welcome”, and that it is illegal to misrepresent a pet as a service animal.” The decal includes an informational brochure for business owners or employees explaining what questions may be asked when an animal is brought onto the premises to determine if it meets the requirements of a service animal.
To request the free decal and information card, please call the Secretary of State’s Corporation Information Line at 603-271-3246 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Helpful links on Service Animals
N.H.Governor’s Commission on Disability
Disability Rights Section, U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
Service Dog Information