Service Animals in Salons & the Americans with Disabilities Act

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Service Animals in Salons & the Americans with Disabilities Act


by Jenny Bortman

In order to fully participate in everyday life, many people with disabilities use a service animal. Dogs can be trained to perform many important tasks to assist people with disabilities, such as providing stability for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items for a person who uses a wheelchair, preventing a child with autism from wandering away, or alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching from behind.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and local government agencies, businesses and non-profit organizations (covered entities) that provide goods or services to the public to make “reasonable modifications” in their policies, practices or procedures when necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. The service animal rules fall under this general principle. Accordingly, entities that have a “no pets” policy generally must modify the policy to allow service animals into their facilities.

As the practice of using service animals increases, tanning salon operators need to be aware of the legal rights of the people who use service animals, as well as the potential for liability within the business. Universal Insurance’s General Liability Policy covers business owners in the event an injury is caused by an animal (service or pet) on the business premises. However, we encourage all business owners to review their policies regularly to ensure that they are adequately covered.

As the practice of using service animals increases, tanning salon operators need to be aware of the legal rights of the people who use service animals, as well as the potential for liability within the business.


Following is some basic information on the subject. Additional info may be found at ada.gov.


Q. What is a service animal?

A. Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual witha disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Q. Does the ADA require service animals to be professionally trained? 

A. No. People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves.


Q. What questions can a covered entity’s employees ask to determine if a dog is a service animal?

A. In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? And (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.


Q. Do service animals have to wear a vest or patch or special harness identify- ing them as service animals?

A. No. The ADA does not require this.

Q. Who is responsible for the care and supervision of a service animal?

A. The handler is responsible for care and supervision, which includes toilet- ing, feeding, grooming and veterinary care. Covered entities are not obligated to supervise or otherwise care for a service animal.

Q. Are gyms, fitness centers, hotels,or municipalities that have swimming pools required to allow a service animal in the pool with its handler?

A. No. The ADA does not override public health rules that prohibit dogs in swim- ming pools. However, service animals must be allowed on the pool deck and in other areas where the public is allowed to go.


While nothing on the ADA website specifically addresses service animals in tanning salons, beauty salons and spas, business owners should be prepared to accommodate such animals and prepare their businesses accordingly.


Edin Nadarevic