An Open Letter to the Chambers of Commerce

Why a Service Dog?
October 14, 2014
To Sir
October 21, 2014
Why a Service Dog?
October 14, 2014
To Sir
October 21, 2014

An Open Letter to the Chambers of Commerce

An Open Letter to the Chambers of Commerce
of Villages, Towns and Cities throughout the U.S.

Please Help Empower Your Member Businesses Regarding
Service Dog Access

 When You Can Say No to Fido

In “Pets Allowed” (New Yorker, October 20 issue), retail management, staff and security personnel throughout Manhattan and Boston permitted “emotional support” animals ranging from a turtle to a snake to a turkey into their establishments.  “There’s nothing we can do about it,” says a restaurant worker in NYC. “We have to let them in.”

No, you don’t. Whether you run an inn, B&B, cafe, boutique, museum, theater, work for the airlines or manage a bait store, you do not need to open your doors to every Flufffy or pet iguana sporting a vest.

Know the Law

What you and your staff do need to do is know the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While the law is currently misinterpreted, misunderstood and abused, it is not very complicated:

photo (2)

Service Dogs ONLY are permitted full access with handler anywhere the public is allowed to go. There are two questions ONLY that businesses may ask. Documentation, letters, certification papers are NOT required.  See brochure for more on ADA Regulations.

If knowledge is power, then knowing the law and the rights of the disabled individual with a service dog as well as your rights as a business can empower you with when to say No without fear of a lawsuit.

What’s in a Name?

Here is an abbreviated glossary, per the ADA, of the most common terms used to label  dogs in vests:

Service Dog

  • Individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.
  • Note key word: disabilities.
  • Category includes guide dogs, dogs for the hearing impaired, medical alert dogs, mobility dogs, psychiatric service dogs
  • ACCESS: Permitted to accompany the owner with a disability anywhere the public is allowed. If dog is not under control nor housebroken, you may ask the handler to leave. See brochure for more on ADA Regulations.

Emotional Support Dog

  • Provides comfort to mentally disabled, not individually trained to perform specific tasks.
  • These are NOT Service Dogs
  • ACCESS: Not permitted the access of a service dog; permitted housing and transportation rights

Therapy Dog

  • Highly trained, these dogs work with people as invited into an establishment such as a nursing home, school
  • These are NOT Service Dogs
  • ACCESS: Not permitted the access of a service dog

Companion Dog

  • This category covers Fido and Fluffy
  • These are NOT Service Dogs
  • ACCESS: Not permitted the access of a service dog.

Help Reduce the Fraud

Celebrities to the average pet owners exploit the ADA law to gain access for their pets into places from the Ritz to the corner bakery, banking on the business’s ignorance of the regulations or fear of a lawsuit.

Empower your employees with knowledge of the law and reduce the number of misinformed who think Fluffy can join them for dinner. Know and act on the law. Ask the two allowable questions. This knowledge and action will help keep home the non-service dogs – the untrained pets that bark, lunge, eat from the table, threaten patrons, cause disruption and create a more difficult environment for the legitimate service dog /disabled person team.

There will still be those who decide not to part with Fido and “come up with a disorder that sounds like a nightmare” (New Yorker article). These fraudulent dog owners who pose as a disabled person with a service dog (akin to dressing up like an amputee or child with cerebral palsy for Halloween) need more help than coffee with Fluffy can provide.


Service Dog Advocates




  1. Traci Adams says:

    thank you this is good information to have handy, keep up the good work

  2. Barb Shepherd says:

    Excellent article! I also would like to add how much I enjoyed your Q&A on Explore.

  3. Nancy K. says:

    The ADA service animal link embedded in the article didn’t seem to work, but the link listed in your source did. Thank you for such a clear, cogent and concise article!

  4. Debbie Hansen says:

    Well done!

  5. Marcia Aulebach says:

    Thank you so much this is very helpful. I have forward to my local chambers and asked to speak and meet myself and my service dog. I can thank Renee enough for her support and understanding..

    • Renee says:

      Marcia, I can email you some handouts/slides from the presentation my colleague and I give to area businesses (wu recreate the wheel, right?!)

  6. Remee says:

    Thank you. Your support means a lot!

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