Is it Legal? Answers to Questions on Employment and Hospitality Law

This blog is part of a six-part series answering questions of interest to the hospitality industry. This blog focuses on service animals on hotel property.  Please see our December 14, 2017 article for an introduction to this series of blogs.

The answers below are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.  You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  1. What questions can be asked of the person with a service animal?  Can a service animal be ejected if it is causing problems (i.e. making a mess, barking, etc.)?

Employees may only ask two questions to potential guests with service dogs:

(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

(2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

A service animal may be ejected if: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it; or (2) the dog is not housebroken.  When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.  Moreover, if the service animal causes any damage, the hotel can charge the disabled guest, so long as the hotel normally charges guests for damages.

These answers and more information may be found in the article “Service Animals” on the Department of Justice’s website regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act, available at https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm. (“ADA’s Service Animals article”)

  1. What category of animal (“service” vs. “comfort”) is a hotel or restaurant mandated to allow?

A hotel or restaurant is only mandated by law to allow service animals. See ADA’s Service Animals article.  There are no legal protection for “comfort animals” at a hotel or restaurant.

  1. What is the hotel or restaurant’s duty to other patrons who might be highly allergic to the pet dander of a service animal?

Hotel or restaurant owners cannot ban service animals because of allergies. In the event that a guest does have allergies, staff should provide reasonable accommodations and separate the guests into different rooms or areas within the restaurant. See ADA’s Service Animals article.