Service Animals at Work

by Deborah Z Mark


What will you say if one of your employees asks to bring a service animal to work?

Do you know what defines a service animal, and who is allowed to have one?

Are you aware of what your responsibilities are as an employer regarding service animals in the workplace?

Definition of a Service Animal

The ADA defines service animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities”.

Examples of such work or tasks include:

  • Guiding people who are blind
  • Alerting people who are deaf
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
  • Reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications
  • Calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack

The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Dogs are not considered service animals if they are still in training. However, they are not required to be professionally trained.

The State of Arizona also recognizes miniature horses as service animals if they have been trained.

Animals That Are Not Considered Service Animals

The ADA does not recognize the following as service animals:

  • Emotional support animals
  • Therapy animals
  • Comfort animals
  • Companion animals: dogs, cats, rabbits, or other animals

 What 2 Questions Can You Ask Regarding a Service Animal?

As an employer, you are only allowed to ask your employee 2 questions:

  1. Is the service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?


Disabilities are not always obvious. They can be:

  • Physical
  • Sensory
  • Psychiatric
  • Intellectual or other mental disabilities

 Important Reminders

Remember, as a potential employer, you are not allowed to ask job applicants medical questions or require medical testing.

After the employee is hired and has started work, you can only ask medical questions or require a medical exam if you need medical documentation to support an employee’s request for an accommodation, or if you are concerned that an employee may not be able to perform a job successfully or safely because of a medical condition.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) can shed more light on the subject.

Have questions about disability accommodations and service animals in the workplace?

Don’t go barking up the wrong tree.

Call managestaff.


It’s what we do.

Image: Stuart Miles/