(25) Restricted: Are there public places not to take a service dog?

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

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Are there public places I am prohibited from taking my service dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides for access to service dogs, accompanying an individual with a disability if that dog is trained to assist the individual with a specific task(s). This access is permitted generally anywhere the public is allowed. (See the ADA fact sheet for a summary of rights for service dogs.)

This week, my husband took me to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We arrived 40 minutes early so I sat in the lobby thinking about Molly at home, waiting for us to return. William spent the time roaming through an empty theatre building, checking out the latest movie posters. We left Molly at home. Loud sounds and darkness in the theatre might create discomfort for her. As well, with sticky floors, I envisioned going home with popcorn and Jujubes stuck to the side of our St. Bernard (not to mention that she snores in the dark).

By federal law, William has the right to take Miss Molly to the movies. In fact, there are only a few limitations to where he can take her in terms of public places. One limitation is when the dog’s presence may compromise a sterile environment. This might be an operating room or burn unit. Another limitation is if a fundamental alteration of services is needed to accommodate the dog’s presence such as in an ambulance when the operators are assisting a patient and the space is too limited to provide the service and accommodate the dog. A third limitation is the dog can be barred if he/she misbehaves in any place of business.

Are there places I should reconsider taking my service dog?

While William can function without Molly at his side some of the time, Molly makes handling his disabilities easier and gives him the confidence he needs to function outside of our home. There are some places, however, that Molly accompanied him that he will leave her home the next time he visits. I thought it might be helpful and fun to create a list of places where having a 130-pound service dog might be . . . well, uncomfortable. So, here is a list of places to think about before packing up the oversized service dog or a service dog of any size:

    • An outhouse
    • A tour of a dairy to see the process of making cheese (any place that requires special clothing to protect the business being conducted is considered sterile and a service dog of any size is prohibited; the making of cheese is one of those processes that requires a sterile environment—who knew?)
    • Computer “clean room”
    • Zoo exhibit where animals might come in direct contact with humans such as an aviary or children’s petting zoo (this could be a prohibited place under the “fundamental alteration” clause)
    • On a sling-shot ride, Ferris wheel, or even Snoopy’s roller coaster ride at Knott’s Berry Farm; imagine a bad case of canine motion sickness
    • At worship services of a church (not considered a public place)
    • Private clubs (not considered a public place); private fitness clubs are considered publically accessible, however
    • Some Native American facilities (generally not considered a public place—best to check before trying to get access)
    • Military bases (not considered public places)
    • Oil platform off the Pacific Ocean (not considered a public place; even if an employee needed a service dog, this would still not be a good place to take a dog because the platform and floors are made of metal grates. My high heels got stuck when I toured one of these off the coast of Santa Barbara. Imagine what would happen to a dog’s paws.
    • Public tour of an aircraft carrier; again, the floors and stairs are metal grates and space in some places is confined
    • Your computer technician’s small office when your technician is deathly allergic to dogs (a business’ concern  for its customers about allergies or fear of dogs is not a reason to deny access to service dogs; but do you really want the guy who is going to fix your computer sneezing all over it?)
    • Your dentist’s office where space is limited and the dentist needs to move around or conduct a procedure in an adjoining cubicle that requires a clean space
    • Cave or coal mine; I haven’t seen a miner’s hat fitted for a dog and it does get dark inside
    • Tour of a sewer manhole or underground pump station; tough for a dog to maneuver down the ladder (I got this idea from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie)
    • Helicopter ride; similar concerns to having your dog accompany you on a roller coaster ride—plus seat belts could be a problem
    • Crowded movie theatre even if your dog can fit under the seat
    • Bluegrass festival with reefer madness unless you have trained your dog not to inhale
    • The Broadway production of Cats

Post your Comments:

Are there places you prefer not to take your service dog even though you are allowed to by law? Please post your response below.

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her husband, William, and dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.