Accessible Travel And Tourism Service Animals

Service Animals, and access to physical locations, structures and websites is a legal requirement based on Civil rights laws, not construction laws.

Accessible Travel And Tourism Service Animals

Part Three of a Three-Part Series

  1. Accessible Locations and Structures
  2. Web Accessibility
  3. Service Animals and Support for Accessibility Organizations

In part one of this two-part series, we noted that if you are a

  • Private tourism business
  • Historic site manager
  • City, state, country CVB
  • Or any other tourism hot spot

Most of all, businesses lose significant revenue when their location is not fully accessible to all travelers including those with service animals.

General Resources

A Guide to Disability Rights Laws  Publications: Architectural Accessibility

Frequently Asked Questions: ADA Checklist for Existing Facilities


Accessibility Defined

“The ADA is a civil rights law and not a building code to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate.”

Accessible access to physical locations, structures and websites is a legal requirement based on Civil rights laws, not construction laws. Public accommodations are covered under ADA title III. ADA Title III regulations 28 CFR Part 36.304. See also ADA Title III RegulationsPart 36 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities (as amended by the final rule published on September 15, 2010)

The ADA and Service Animals

Photo of a service dog with blue service dog vest. ervice Dogs. Guide Dogs Are Heros. vegas guide dog service dog
Service Dogs. Guide Dogs Are Heros. vegas guide dog service dog.  Courtesy Tillman Skates


Overview: The ADA and Service Animals:

The ADA provides guidance on the term “service animal” and the service animal provisions in the Department’s new regulations.

Most noteworthy, a particularly misunderstood area of ADA civil rights laws deals with service animals. As a result, businesses and their employees are leaving themselves open to lawsuits.  Since they are not properly complying with this legal requirement, they place themselves in legal jeopardy.

Furthermore, it is not an option. Or up to the manager.  Also it is not a decision an employee makes to allow or not allow a service dog. It is the law! And if you deny someone with a service animal, you have committed a civil rights violation!

What are Service Animals

Wikipedia offers a good general overview in plain language about service dogs and provides some good additional information.

ADA Service Animal Description
  1. Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA.
  2. A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
  3. Generally, title II and title III entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.

Service Animals: animals trained to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Service animals may also be referred to as assistance animals, assist animals, support animals, or helper animals depending on the country and the animal’s function.

Most of all, service animals have been used for almost 90 years! And used in a variety of capacities. In addition, the state where you live may offer a variety of animals to use. While nationally, the US, limits service animals to dogs and miniature horses, states offer additional options. As a result, states can allow other animals at those locations for which they have control (not Federal buildings). For example, in Montana, you can even have a wolf for a service animal! Lastly, in some countries, they may even use a monkey or bird.

Categories of Service Dogs

The international assistance animal community has categorized three types of assistance animals. Wikipedia

  1. Guide animal—to guide the blind
  2. Hearing animal—to signal the hearing impaired
  3. Service animal—to do work for persons with disabilities other than blindness or deafness.

In addition, service animals in the third category serve a wide variety of needs. Most of all, service animals include those used for a wide variety of disabilities and even emotional support animals. This category is much misunderstood, Especially relevant, if you have a recognized condition covered by a DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) diagnosis you may qualify for an emotional support animal.

Conditions To Qualify For An Emotional Support Animal

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Chronic stress
  • Others listed in the DSM-IV – (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)
No Discrimination In Housing

ESA Doctors  – You cannot be discriminated against for housing or even flying on airlines with an emotional support animal.

In accordance with the Fair Housing Act you cannot be denied access to housing and according to the Air Carrier Access Act you cannot be denied air travel or travel amenities. They also state:

“landlords and property managers cannot discriminate against you or prevent you and your ESA animal from obtaining the housing you need—even in “No Pet” situations.”

Know Your Rights

As a result of employee or management ignorance, discrimination happens all the time. Probably, I could not count the number times I have had to tell people to seek legal guidance because this issue. So, when a landlord tries to prevent someone with a service animal from renting because of their no pets policy. That is illegal! Know your rights. Furthermore, contact someone like ESA Doctors for advice or consult a civil rights attorney. Most of all remember that ADA laws are civil rights laws!

Be Proactive On Accessibility Issues

Most of all we encourage businesses to Contact the  United States Department of Justice – Civil Rights Division – Disability Rights Section for confirmation if they are in doubt as to their legal responsibilities under the act. And remember, stiff criminal and civil penalties and fines Per Occurrence can be levied as well as criminal prosecution. So, it is not worth taking the chance to try and circumvent ADA requirements, or the accessibility requirements of other countries. Be Proactive On Accessibility Issues for two reasons!

  1. Do it because it is the right thing to do – not just because it is a civil rights issue. It is a matter of fairness, fundamental equality, and treating all of your customers with dignity and respect.
  2. It will help you increase revenues by opening your location up to more clientele. We want to help you do that.

Organizations We Support And Which You Should Support Too!

ITR supports all organizations that promote and encourage accessibility. And, not just those involved in travel.


Accessible Tourism | Ethics and Social Responsibility According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of the world’s population (One Billion People) are estimated to live with some form of disability. UNWTO is convinced that accessibility for all to tourist facilities, products, and services should be a central part of any responsible and sustainable tourism policy.

Also, we subscribe to the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism | Ethics and Social Responsibility

[PDF] UNWTO Recommendations on Accessible Information in Tourism

Open Doors Organization

We support accessibility organizations worldwide, including the Open Doors Organization (ODO). ODO promotes accessibility worldwide. We encourage all public travel and tourism businesses to become ODO supporters. If you would like more information about ODO, contact their Director of Programs directly:  Laurel Van Horn or visit: Open Doors Organization

Also keep in mind that being proactive with accessibility issues can drastically increase your revenues. Finally, ITR helps tourism businesses to capitalize on this significant and rapidly growing sector.


Lastly, we want travelers to have a ready source of valid, uncompromising information about travel and tourism sites. While at the same time, giving tourism related businesses the exposure they need to claim their slice of the entire tourism pie

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Accessible Travel and Web Accessibility Is a Win-Win for Everyone!

2 Your Success ™

Rick Stoneking Sr. CEO
International Travel Reviews ™
Division of International Publishing Group, LLC ™
Inverness, Florida

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About The Author

Most noteworthy, Rick Stoneking Sr.  Retired, disabled, veteran, minister and formal federal agent. Also, Founder/Owner of International Travel Reviews (ITR) and a #DisabilityAdvocate for #AccessibleTravel.

Also, Rick has written in one form or another for over forty years. Rick’s has published work in multiple genres in both Christian and secular circles. Furthermore, his writing includes everything from police reports to a Christian E-book, to a year-long daily devotional series. Lastly, he has published articles and columns in well-recognized state and international magazines.

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