Service Animals

General ADA Provisions for Service Animals:

Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public, including UMBC, must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility, or campus, where customers are normally allowed to go. People with disabilities may be restricted from areas not open to the public, or areas that have limited access such as research labs and maintenance areas. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including educational institutions, restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.

  • University personnel may ask if an animal is a service animal, or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform, if the question is responsive to the presence or expectations of the service animal. Personnel cannot require special ID cards for animals or ask about people’s disabilities.
  • People with disabilities aided by service animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other persons, or treated less favorably than other persons. However, if the University normally charges for damage caused, a person with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.
  • Violators of the ADA can be required to pay monetary damages and penalties.
  • A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove their service animal from the premises unless: the animal is out of control and the animal’s owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie), or the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. In these cases, the University should give the person with the disability the option to use or obtain services without having the animal on the premises.
  • University areas that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas, even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
  • The University is not required to provide care or food for a service animal or provide a special location for it to relieve itself.
  • General concern about allergies and fear of animals are typically not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people with service animals, though if an individual reports a specific situation, it may be brought to the attention of staff to accommodate other physical or mental disabilities.

(Adopted from

Service Animals:

On March 15, 2011, the definition of service animals under the ADA became specific to dogs trained to perform tasks related to the handler’s disability. There is a limited allowance for miniature horses. Service animals are neither pets nor therapy/comfort animals. Animals, including dogs, that do not meet the definition of service animals are not afforded the same access as service animals, and may be denied access to areas where service animals are permitted.

Service Animal Etiquette:

  • Service animals are employed based on medical necessity. Federal and Maryland law permits people with service animals to have access to public places. Service animals may accompany the person accompanied by a service animal (handler) at all times and in all campus locations (with the exception of areas where animals are strictly prohibited for health or safety restrictions). Service animals are not pets, therefore laws that restrict pets from public places (e.g. restaurants, housing, theaters) are not applicable to service animals.
  • Address the handler when approaching a service animal.
  • Remember that service animals are working and are not pets.
  • Do not touch the service animal, or the person it assists, without the handler’s permission.
  • Do not make noises at, or deliberately startle the service animal; this action could distract the animal from performing its job.
  • Do not feed the service animal; this could disrupt his/her schedule.
  • Do not attempt to separate a service animal from its handler.
  • Do not feel offended if a handler does not wish to discuss his/her disability or the assistance their service animal provides.