Federal and state laws protect the use of guide, hearing, and service animals in numerous circumstances. Anyone with a disability who is partnered with an assistance dog is guaranteed equal access in places where the public is permitted. This includes places of business, recreation, accommodation, employment, housing, education, transportation, air travel, and government facilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in these areas.
Unfortunately, denied access and other forms of discrimination do occur for a variety of reasons.
Filing a discrimination complaint to the correct authority following an incident is important. This helps prevent future infractions by encouraging better staff training and ensuring accountability.
Below are some of the key authorities to whom discrimination complaints should be addressed in different common situations.
Discrimination by a Public or Government Entity
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Civil Rights handles complaints about discrimination in programs, services, and activities by state and local governments and by private entities open to the public (called “public accommodations”). These include businesses and nonprofit organizations, privately operated entities offering certain types of courses and exams, privately operated transportation providers, and commercial facilities.
Do you need to file a discrimination complaint with the DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights?
Discrimination by a Transportation Service Provider
Anyone traveling with an assistance dog cannot be denied access to transportation, even when there is a “no pets” policy. Furthermore, this person cannot be forced to sit in any particular spot or to pay any additional fee for the animal. The customer also does not have to provide advance notice about traveling with the assistance animal.
Laws apply to public and private transportation providers, including aircraft, fixed-route buses, subways, Amtrak and other passenger trains, commuter/light rail, taxis, shuttles, limousines, and paratransit services.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights handles discrimination complaints related to modes of transportation.
Do you need to file a discrimination complaint with the FTA’s Office of Civil Rights?
Discrimination by a Housing Provider
Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers may not deny or limit housing to people with disabilities, nor can they refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices for people with disabilities. This is the case even when a “no pets” policy is in place. Allowing those with disabilities to have assistance animals that perform work or tasks, or that provide disability-related emotional support, is considered a reasonable accommodation under the law.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Civil Rights handles disability complaints related to housing.
Do you need to file a discrimination complaint with HUD’s Office of Civil Rights?
Discrimination by an Educational Institution
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and local government entities—including public schools, colleges, and universities—to make reasonable modifications to programs and services to allow access for individuals with disabilities. Service, hearing, and guide dogs are recognized as reasonable modifications or accommodations under Title II.
The US Department of Education (DOE) Office for Civil Rights handles disability complaints related to educational institutions.
Do you need to file a discrimination complaint with the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights?
Discrimination by an Employer
Discrimination has occurred if an employer or other entity covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Rehabilitation Act treats a qualified job applicant or employee with a disability unfavorably because of the disability. Furthermore, employers must make reasonable accommodations for an applicant or employee with a disability, which includes accommodations for the use of an assistance dog.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles disability discrimination complaints, including denial of an employee’s right to bring a service, guide, or hearing dog into the workplace.
Do you need to file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC?
State Laws Regarding Assistance Dog Discrimination
In some situations in some places, state laws make discrimination or certain actions against people with disabilities and/or their assistance dogs a criminal matter. Your state’s Office of the Attorney General is charged with enforcing state civil rights laws and is the appropriate place to direct questions and complaints of this nature.
Do you need to file a discrimination complaint with your state Attorney General’s office?
The content of this page is for general information purposes only, and may not be complete or accurately reflect current law. No information contained herein should be construed as legal advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel. Contact an attorney to obtain legal advice with respect to any particular legal issue.