Service dogs play a vital role in providing assistance and companionship to individuals with disabilities. However, many people are not aware of their legal rights when it comes to traveling with a service dog.

If you’re wondering whether or not a hotel can refuse your service dog, the answer is not a simple yes or no. It depends on several factors, including the type of establishment, the nature of your disability, and the behavior of your service dog.

In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide to help you understand your legal rights as a service dog owner and what you can do if you encounter any issues while traveling with your furry friend.

Understanding the Law

Service dogs are essential companions for people with disabilities, providing them with the necessary support to help them lead a normal life. However, there are times when service dogs are not permitted in certain public places, such as hotels. This raises the question, can a hotel refuse a service dog?

The answer to this question lies in the law. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), hotels are required to allow service dogs to accompany their owners in all areas of the hotel that are open to the public, including restaurants, swimming pools, and other recreational areas. This means that hotels cannot refuse service dogs based on breed or size restrictions, or charge additional fees for accommodating them.

Types of Service Dogs

Service dogs come in different types, including guide dogs for those who are visually impaired, hearing dogs for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, mobility dogs for those with physical disabilities, and medical alert dogs for those with medical conditions such as epilepsy or diabetes. Each type of service dog is trained to perform specific tasks that help their owners manage their disability.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are different from service dogs, as they provide emotional support and companionship to their owners, rather than performing specific tasks related to a disability. While ESAs are not protected under the ADA, some hotels may allow them as a courtesy, provided that the owner presents a valid ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional.

State Laws

It is important to note that some states may have additional laws that protect service dogs and their owners. For example, some states may allow service dogs in areas that are not covered by the ADA, such as hotels that do not have public access areas. It is important to research the laws in your state to understand your rights as a service dog owner.

When Can a Hotel Refuse a Service Dog?

Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities, and they are protected by law to accompany their owners in public places, including hotels. However, there are situations where a hotel can refuse a service dog.

The Service Dog is Not Trained

Service dogs must undergo extensive training to perform their duties and behave appropriately in public places. If a service dog is not trained, it can pose a safety risk to other guests and staff in the hotel. In this case, the hotel can refuse the service dog, but the owner should be given the opportunity to provide documentation of the dog’s training or certification.

The Service Dog is Out of Control

If a service dog is out of control and behaves aggressively or disruptively, the hotel can refuse the dog’s entry. Service dogs must be under control at all times, and their behavior should not interfere with the hotel’s operations or other guests’ enjoyment of the hotel. However, the hotel staff should give the owner a chance to address the situation and regain control of the dog.

The Service Dog Poses a Threat to Other Guests

If a service dog poses a threat to other guests, the hotel can refuse the dog’s entry. For example, if the dog has a contagious disease or a history of biting, it can endanger the health or safety of other guests. In this case, the hotel staff should explain the reason for the refusal and offer alternative accommodations if possible.

The Hotel Can Provide Equivalent Accommodations Without the Service Dog

If the hotel can provide equivalent accommodations without the service dog, it can refuse the dog’s entry. For example, if the hotel can offer a room on the ground floor instead of an upper floor, where the dog’s assistance is not necessary, it can accommodate the owner’s needs without the dog’s presence. However, the hotel staff should discuss the options with the owner and make sure that the alternative arrangements meet their needs.

What to Do If Your Service Dog is Refused

Know Your Rights

If you have a service dog, it is important to know your legal rights. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are not considered pets and are therefore allowed in places of business, including hotels. This means that hotels are not allowed to refuse service to you and your service animal. However, it is important to note that emotional support animals are not considered service animals under the ADA and may not have the same legal protections.

Speak to the Manager

If you are refused service with your service dog, the first step is to speak to the manager on duty. Explain that your dog is a trained service animal and that you have the legal right to have them with you. It may be helpful to have documentation of your dog’s training or certification to show the manager.

File a Complaint

If speaking to the manager does not resolve the issue, you may want to file a complaint with the hotel’s corporate office. Most hotels have a complaint process in place, so ask the manager for information on how to file a complaint. Be sure to include details about the incident, including the date and time, the name of the manager on duty, and any witnesses who may have seen the incident.

Contact a Lawyer

If the issue is not resolved through the above steps, it may be necessary to contact a lawyer who specializes in disability rights. They can help you understand your legal rights and assist in filing a lawsuit if necessary. It is important to document everything related to the incident, including any expenses incurred as a result of the hotel’s refusal to allow your service animal.

Remember, as a service dog owner, you have the legal right to have your dog with you in places of business, including hotels. If you are refused service with your service dog, stay calm and follow the appropriate steps to ensure your rights are protected.

Tips for Traveling with a Service Dog

Traveling with a service dog can be a great experience, but it can also be challenging. Some hotels may refuse to accommodate service dogs, which can be frustrating and stressful. Here are some tips to help make traveling with a service dog a smoother experience:

Prepare Ahead of Time

Before you travel, research the laws and regulations regarding service dogs in the places you will be visiting. Different states and countries may have different rules, so it’s important to be informed. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on all vaccinations and has all the necessary paperwork. You may also want to bring a copy of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to show hotel staff if they have questions or concerns about your service dog.

Pack the Essentials

When traveling with a service dog, it’s important to pack all the essentials. This includes food, water, toys, and any necessary medications. You may also want to bring a first aid kit for your dog. Don’t forget to bring your dog’s identification tags and a leash or harness. It’s also a good idea to bring a crate or carrier in case your dog needs a safe place to rest.

Be Prepared for Questions

When you check into a hotel with your service dog, you may be asked some questions. Hotel staff may ask about your dog’s training, certification, or task(s) your dog performs. It’s important to remain calm and answer these questions honestly. Remember that service dogs are protected under the ADA, and hotels are required to accommodate them. You may also want to have your doctor’s note or other documentation handy, just in case.

Be Patient and Respectful

Traveling with a service dog can be stressful, but it’s important to remain patient and respectful. Hotel staff may not be familiar with service dogs, or they may have had negative experiences in the past. Try to educate them about the role of service dogs and the laws that protect them. Remember that you and your dog are ambassadors for the service dog community, and your behavior can help to shape people’s perceptions of service dogs.


In conclusion, service dogs are not pets, they are working animals that provide essential assistance to individuals with disabilities. As a service dog owner, it’s important to understand your legal rights and what to do if you encounter any issues while traveling with your furry friend.

Remember, hotels cannot refuse your service dog without a valid reason. If you encounter any issues, stay calm, know your rights, and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your service dog.

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