According to the U.S. Department of Justice, you cannot demand to see
identification or certification as a condition of giving the person
service. Most, but not all, service animals wear some sort of
recognizable clothing, such as a cape or special harness, but they are
not required to wear such markings.
What you CAN do is ask if the dog is required because of a disability,
and if so what the dog is trained to do. That's how you may legally
determine whether a dog is a pet or a service animal.
If the dog is not trained to do anything specific to help the person,
then it is not a service dog under the ADA. Note: some states are
more relaxed on their definition of "service animal." California, for
example, appears to include animals used for emotional support in
We have a collection of state laws at
http://servicedogcentral.org/content/node/51 if you'd like to look up
service dog related laws in your state.
It is not wrong to say you don't allow pets. A service dog is not a
pet. If the animal is not wearing identification, it is perfectly
reasonable to assume it is a pet until the owner tells you otherwise.
People have told me they don't allow pets. I don't get angry or
hostile, I simply say "I'm disabled and he's my service dog." I see
no point in yelling at someone, and frankly, it has been my experience
that those who yell the loudest are often trying to bluff and
intimidate their way through.
Yes, there are people who will try to pass off pets as service animals
to get them into hotels. So prepare yourself. You should keep a copy
of this document on hand:
It contains the Department of Justice's official position on your
right to ask what tasks the dog is trained to perform.
Also keep this number handy: 800 - 514 - 0301 (voice) or 800 - 514 -
0383 (TTY). These numbers are to the Department of Justice's ADA
information line. They can answer specific questions in helping you
to determine your obligations under the ADA. The Department of
Justice is the government agency responsible for enforcing the ADA.
They are the highest authority for advising you how to proceed in a
If the animal is obviously out of control, or is behaving in a
threatening manner (ie lunging or growling), then a business has a
right to deny access to that animal, but must still offer service to
the person (if they leave the animal outside). If the animal does any
damage to the room, you may charge for repairs, or for special
cleaning because the animal toileted in the room, but not for cleaning
just because there was an animal in the room. You can get all of this
information with details from the ADA Information Line.