Individuals with disabilities in Illinois who use service dogs are entitled to have their trained animal accompany them in almost all public areas, with a few exceptions. A service dog in Illinois is permitted to go wherever their handlers go, unless there are extreme public safety risks, such as in sterile hospital environments. It’s worth noting that any breed of dog can qualify as a service dog in Illinois.
Definition of a Service Dog in Illinois
A service dog in Illinois is defined as a dog that is individually trained to do work, or perform tasks for a person with a disability. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), public places may not discriminate against people with disabilities who utilize service dogs to assist them. Service dogs are permitted in all public areas, including:
• Movie theaters and arenas
• Restaurants and bars
• Public transportation and taxis
• Shopping malls
“work” or “tasks” means to take a specific action when required to assist its handler with their disability in question
Registering a Service Dog in Illinois
While there are no mandatory registration requirements for service dogs, it I a good idea that you possess physical identification to avoid disputes with third parties about the validity of your service dog’s status. By law, any dog that meets the ADA’s definition of a service dog is a valid service dog. This means that any dog that has been individually trained to perform a specific task to assist someone living with a disability may be qualified as a service dog.
The process is straightforward, just follow these three steps:
- Identify the right service dog for your disability
- Ensure proper training
- Register and certify your service dog
Step 1: Identify the Right Service Dog for Your Disability
While any dog breed is eligible to be a service dog in Illinois, certain breeds have characteristics and instincts that allow them to excel at specific tasks. Service dogs may assist individuals who suffer from psychiatric disabilities such as:
• Substance abuse and addiction
• Eating disorders
Service dogs can assist those suffering from psychiatric disabilities through numerous tasks such as tactile stimulation, blocking in public spaces, assisting with taking medication, and many more physical and emotional tasks.
Step 2: Ensure Proper Training
Training and temperament are critical markers of a service dog. Formal training certifications are not required, so this aspect of the process is self-regulated by the community. You can receive professional training or self-train your service dog but it is important to understand that professional training is not required.
Step 3: Register and Certify Your Service Dog
There is no official registry for service dogs in Illinois and service dog certificates are not a formal requirement. Any service dog registry claiming to be government operated or sanctioned is false. Business operators and government officials cannot legally require proof of registration, training, or licensing as a condition to enter their establishment where the public is permitted.
Violation of the Service Animal Access Act is a Class C misdemeanor.
The only two questions that are permissible for you to be asked about your service dog are:
- Is the animal required because of a disability?
- What task has the animal been trained to perform?
If the task your dog is trained to perform is extremely obvious, then these questions are not permissible to ask.
Once you confirm the above, businesses must make reasonable accommodations. Unfortunately, many businesses that interact with the public are unfamiliar with the laws surrounding service animals and insist on receiving physical proof of service dog registration.
As a matter of convenience and to ensure proper access as intended by the ADA, many service dog handlers choose to voluntarily register their dogs as service dogs and carry a digital ID card and/or certificate with them. This can prevent uncomfortable situations or confusion when interacting with staff at public establishments.
Service dogs should also always be easily identifiable as such by the use physical markers such as bandanas or collars so that the public can quickly confirm service dog status without having to interact directly with a handler
Where Are Service Dogs Permitted?
State and Federal laws states that business are required to allow service dogs in the same areas that the general public is permitted. The only exceptions to this are situations where there is a risk to public health that outweighs the individual benefits received from the service dog.
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional Support Animals are also not considered to be Service Animals. However, ESAs are included under the Fair Housing Act’s definition of assistance animals, and accordingly may permitted to live in buildings where landlords do not otherwise allow pets for no additional fees.
Register now to receive your uniquely identifiable Service Dog Identification and Certification.