Service Animal Access to Healthcare Facilities | Jackson Lewis CP


While people may be familiar with many of the rules for admitting service animals into public places, do the same rules apply when a patient or visitor is seeking entry to a hospital, doctor’s office or other healthcare facility with a service animal?

Most healthcare facilities, especially hospitals, have “no pets” policies that prohibit patients and visitors from bringing pets into the facility. Given the sterile environment required in healthcare facilities and the ongoing treatment of patients with varying degrees of medical conditions, one could easily assume that a different standard and different requirements apply to the admission of animals. assistance. Generally, however, a hospital must allow patients and visitors with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals, just like other public accommodations. This includes allowing service animals access to patient rooms and any other areas of the facility where the public and patients are permitted to go. Service animals should even be allowed to accompany their handlers in an ambulance unless it interferes with the ability to effectively treat the patient. In particular, a healthcare facility cannot exclude access for service animals on the grounds that staff can provide the same services. If a patient is admitted to the hospital but unable to care for their service animal, the hospital is required to allow a family member or friend to come into the hospital to provide care for the service animal. service animal so that the handler and service animal are not separated. . In limited circumstances, the healthcare facility may place the service animal in a boarding facility until the patient is discharged, but must first provide the patient with the opportunity to make alternate arrangements for care. of the service animal.

Even within this, there are limits on the types of animals that must be allowed. For the purposes of public access, a service animal is limited to a dog or miniature horse trained to perform a task or take a specific action as needed to assist the person with a disability. A person with epilepsy, for example, may have a dog trained to alert at the onset of a seizure and to ensure the safety of its handler during the seizure. Emotional support, therapy, reassurance or pets are not considered service animals under the ADA unless they have been trained to perform a specific job or task for a person with a disability. The handler cannot be required to provide registration or certification documents to establish that the animal is a “service animal”, but the health care facility can ask them two questions:

  1. Is the dog (or miniature horse) a required service animal due to a disability?
  2. What work or task has the animal been trained for?

Certain state or local laws and ordinances may extend coverage for the purpose of public access to emotional support animals in certain circumstances. These laws should be considered before denying access to healthcare facilities to patients and visitors with service animals.


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