Verify: Can businesses ask for a service dog's identification?

You'll be hard pressed to find an ABC10 News employee who's not crazy about animals.

You’ll be hard pressed to find an ABC10 News employee who’s not crazy about animals.

But we hear plenty of reports of “fake” service animals, or support animals wreaking havoc in businesses.

A recent Facebook post on a community page caught our attention when it brought up the question of whether businesses are allowed to ask people for proof that their dogs are service animals.

To “Verify” this question, we turned to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

First, there’s a distinction between service dogs and emotional support animals (ESA). Service dogs – also often referred to as guide dogs – are trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities.

Emotional support dogs, by contrast, do not need to be trained – simply their presence is a psychological benefit to their owners.

Service dogs must be allowed in any business, except areas required to be sterile, like commercial kitchens or operating rooms. They also can’t be discriminated against when it comes to housing.

Businesses are not required to let in emotional support animals under California law. When it comes to housing, however, landlords are required to figure out whether the person is disabled, and whether the animal does indeed provide support. Once these thresholds are met, the landlord is not allowed to apply size or breed restrictions, nor is the landlord allowed to charge a pet deposit or rent.

As for questions? Businesses are only allowed to ask two: Whether the owner is disabled, and what tasks the dog is trained to perform.

Therefore, the answer to this question is “false” – businesses are not allowed to ask for proof or certification for a service animal.

But there is one thing to point out. It is illegal to falsely claim that a pet is a service animal. Doing so can result in a $1,000 fine, or up to six months in county jail. 

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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