If you love to or simply need to travel, you may be wondering how to make this possible without leaving behind your companion. We know that Service Dogs have housing and air travel rights, but are Service Dogs allowed in Hotels?
What defines a Service Dog?
Service animals are defined under the ADA as: dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.
What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Don’t let the title confuse you into thinking a Psychiatric Service Dog is an Emotional Support Animal. While there are similarities, there are also BIG differences. It is essential to do the research to help decide which might be best.
Mental health service dogs or Psychiatric Service Dogs are task-trained to assist their handler who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. If you think you may qualify for a PSD, you can start your approval process here.
Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is allowed to go. For example, in a hospital, it usually would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, or examination rooms. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment.
If someone's dog calms them when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a Psychiatric Service Dog?
It could. There are a couple of variables involved in this answer. The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that its owner is about to have an anxiety attack and takes a specific action to help avoid or lessen the attack’s impact, he would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s presence simply provides comfort, he would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.
Now that we've covered the bases on what is and is not a Psychiatric Service Dog, let's talk hotels.
Are Service Dogs allowed in hotels?
YES. Before you go booking your stay at any hotel, know your service animals’ behavior expectations. A service animal must be under the control of its handler. Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless the individual’s disability prevents using these devices or these devices interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of tasks. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
Service dogs are NOT pets. Think of it like this. If a person had a heart condition and needed medication for this condition, it wouldn’t be safe to tell them they are only allowed to take it when they were in the appropriate designated space. They need access to this medicine when they need it. Service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners because they are medically necessary for the person’s health and well-being. In more severe circumstances, it can mean a matter of life and death.
People with psychiatric needs who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons. They should not be treated less favorably than anyone or charged special fees not charged to patrons without animals.
Can I be required to pay a pet deposit to stay in a hotel with my service animal?
NO. Under the ADA laws, hotels cannot charge extra fees for a service animal like they would for a guest staying with a pet. Remember, an Emotional Support Animal is NOT considered a service animal, and you will be responsible for complying with hotel pet fee policies. Of course, it is always possible to discuss your situation with a manager, and if you have documentation for your Emotional Support Animal, the hotel might make allowances. But, they aren’t required by law to do so.
Important Note: if a hotel ordinarily charges a guest for damage caused to the premises, such as a hotel room, it may charge the owner of a service animal for similar damage. This emphasizes why having a well-behaved, well-trained service dog is paramount.
Can hotels assign designated rooms and areas for guests with service animals out of consideration for other guests?
No. The ADA states that a guest with a disability who uses a service animal must be provided the same opportunity to reserve any available room at the hotel as other guests without disabilities. They may not be restricted to “pet-friendly” rooms.
In addition, when you stay at a hotel with your psychiatric service dog, you and your dog will be allowed in the public areas of the hotel, as well as having the right to a floor and room that are not generally designated for people traveling with pets.
Can the hotel ask me to remove my service dog from the premises?
It depends. Suppose the service dog is well-behaved and trained. In that case, it is unlikely that the following would occur, but if the dog is out of control and the owner does not take action to control it, or the dog is not housebroken, these are grounds for requesting removal of the service dog from the premises. If a situation like this occurs, the staff must offer the individual with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.
What questions are they allowed to ask me about my need for a service dog?
The staff is not allowed to get into a game of 20 questions with an individual and their need for a service dog. Because a Psychiatric Service Dog treats more invisible illnesses, questions might come up. If they do, the staff is allowed to ask two questions:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform
THAT’S IT! Staff cannot ask detailed questions about the individual’s disability.
Will hotel staff care for my service dog?
No. It is up to the handler to provide care for the animal. The staff is not responsible for providing the care or supervision of a service animal. According to the rules of conduct, the general public should adhere to concerning a service dog; the hotel staff should not:
- Pet the dog
- Speak to or tease the dog
- Feed the dog
These rules aren’t there to be rude. Remember, this animal is working, and any distraction can be detrimental to the handler and necessary medical needs.
Are there some hotels that are better than others for service animals?
That’s a tricky one as we have all experienced mixed hospitality in the service industry. Pet-Friendly Hotel Chains may have unique amenities in place for dogs, which is a nice benefit for both of you to enjoy your stay.
On the other hand, maybe you would prefer a quieter setting with fewer animals and distractions. There are plenty of great choices for this scenario as well. Every individual and his/her service dog has specific needs, and there are accommodations out there for everyone.
Google reviews are your friend. It could also be beneficial to join a few support groups on social media platforms to hear from other service dog owners and their hotel experiences: bonus, you gain a new group of pals for the win.