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Legal Issues Surrounding Service Animals

With the number of service animals on the rise, it is important for a retail owner to know its rights as to which animals can be lawfully excluded from a retail establishment.  This is especially true, as improperly excluding protected service animals from a store can subject its owner to civil and criminal liability.

As an initial matter, there are two separate types of animals that may be at issue: “Service Animals,” which have been trained to perform a specific task for their owner (i.e. seeing eye dogs); and “Emotional Support Animals” (“ESAs”), which have not been trained to perform a specific task, but which merely provide emotional support for an owner that has been diagnosed with anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) or some other psychological condition.

Service Animals are covered under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and applicable Illinois State laws, as set forth below, and may not be lawfully excluded from a retail establishment except in very rare circumstances.  ESAs are not covered under the ADA or Illinois State law, and thus may be lawfully excluded.  Further, the ADA and applicable Illinois laws only allow for dogs and miniature horses to qualify as “Service Animals” and thus any other type of animal (cats, etc.) may be lawfully excluded.  To read the full article, click