Are Service Dogs Allowed in Restaurants?

Matt Fleming
May 24, 2023
May 23, 2023
4 minutes
Service dogs are permitted into most public places where pet dogs are prohibited. Find out more about service dog rights with Pettable.

For individuals living with psychological or physical disabilities, a service dog can make an incredible difference in their day-to-day lives. These canine companions can perform special tasks and provide the priceless emotional support that only a dog can offer. 

When properly trained, a service dog can accompany its owner to a wide array of public accommodations, including medical facilities and public transportation — but are service dogs allowed in restaurants? Let’s explore this topic closer to help you decide whether a service dog can make a difference in your life.

What is a Service Dog?

Simply put, a service dog is an animal that has been trained to help its owner in their everyday life. Unlike a standard pet, a service dog is a worker, taught to perform specific tasks for an individual with a disability. According to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), the tasks must be directly related to the person’s disability, which excludes basic emotional support. 

Are Service Dogs Allowed in Restaurants?

One of the best aspects of having a service dog is that it can accompany you as you go about your daily life. Service dog public access rights protect both the owner and the animal from discrimination in public accommodations — including restaurants. That means you can bring your service dog to restaurants, both in a dine-in and take-out capacity, whether the establishment allows pets or not.

Can Service Dogs Be Removed from a Restaurant?

Just because a service dog is allowed in a restaurant, it still must follow some important rules as to its behavior. If the animal is out of control and its handler doesn’t take effective action to control it, or if it isn’t properly housebroken, the establishment may deny service or ask them to leave. However, a properly trained service dog should be well-behaved in almost all situations.

What Can a Restaurant Ask About Service Dogs?

When it comes to physical or psychiatric service dogs, restaurants (and other public accommodations) are only allowed to ask you two specific questions: 

  • Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Staff are not allowed to ask for documentation to prove the animal is a service dog, for the animal to display one of its tasks, or inquire about the individual’s disability.

Do Service Dogs Need to Wear Vests?

If you’re wondering if your service dog needs to wear a vest, the answer is a simple and straightforward “no.” However, a vest could prove helpful in many public accommodations, giving staff and managers a clear visual signal that the animal is an official service dog and possibly preventing any undue issues.

Service Dog Laws

Individuals with disabilities and their service dogs are protected from discrimination thanks to both federal and state laws. These regulations permit service dogs to be admitted to public accommodations from restaurants to air travel. 

Federal Law & The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA provides powerful protections to Americans living with physical and psychiatric disorders, ensuring individuals can bring their professional service dogs with them just about everywhere they go. Other federal laws, including the Fair Housing Act (FHA), prohibit discrimination against these individuals in other aspects of their lives, such as their living situations.

State Laws on Service Dogs

Across the United States, state rules and regulations for service animals are similar, typically protecting disabled persons in most cases. However, every state may have its own laws that provide more protections or make different considerations. About half the states offer waivers or exemptions for licensing fees, for example. Additionally, more than half the states have laws that criminalize the fraudulent representation of a person’s service dog, making it a misdemeanor to try and pass off a pet dog as a service animal.

Difference Between Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Although both can provide invaluable assistance to their humans, there are some key differences between physical or psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) and emotional support animals (ESAs). While PSDs are trained to perform specific tasks related to their owners’ disabilities, ESAs simply provide companionship and affection that aids their handlers, in general. That means ESAs are not protected by federal laws and regulations, such as the ADA and FHA, and are not allowed in restaurants or other public spaces.

Service Dog Training Requirements

Surprisingly, there are few requirements when it comes to training your service dog. According to the ADA, a service dog is not required to undergo a specific professional training program to be certified as a service animal, to wear a special vest, or to display certification.

Performs Tasks to Assist with a Disability

The most important factor in having a service dog is ensuring that it is trained to perform one or more tasks directly related to the individual’s disability, whether it’s physical or psychiatric in nature. This could include fetching necessary medications, providing deep pressure therapy (DPT), or responding to an epileptic seizure — and much more.

Obedience Training

Another great idea for enhancing your service dog’s skills is to enroll in obedience training, providing additional support for improving your everyday life. However, this is not required by federal laws, so as long as your service dog is trained for its special duties, you’ll be able to take it into restaurants and other public settings.

How to Train a Service Dog

Training your pet canine to be a service dog is an easy and affordable option that can transform the quality of life for anyone living with a disability. You have the option to enroll your dog in an in-person training program or an online course, such as the one offered by Pettable.

Online Psychiatric Service Dog Training with Pettable

At Pettable, we provide an innovative online psychiatric service dog training program that is easy and affordable. You can transform your canine companion into a professional PSD at a pace that fits both your dog and your lifestyle. Led by a certified professional trainer, our 15-part online video series enables you to train your dog for specific tasks related to your mental disorder. Inquire today to get one step closer to having your own skilled service dog.

Meet the author:
Matt Fleming

Matt is a Midwestern-based writer and devoted dog dad, living with a sweet mixed-breed pup named Robin. A life-long dog lover, he had the pleasure of growing up with several German Shepherds, a Cocker Spaniel, and a Black Labrador. He is a full-time editor, as well as a musician and poet, who loves basketball, birdwatching and listening to The Cure and Nick Cave.