blog home Dog Bites Have you noticed more dogs in stores lately? So have we.

Have you noticed more dogs in stores lately? So have we.

By John Singleton on May 15, 2024

In Virginia, only people with support dogs trained to assist those with disabilities have the right to bring their dogs into stores and other businesses.

In Virginia, only people with legitimately recognized support dogs have the right to bring them into stores and other public establishments. Many dogs you see in public establishments aren’t actually support dogs.

So-called “emotional support dogs” do not fall under the legally recognized “support dog” category, and businesses are not required to allow such animals on the premises.

If you or a loved one is bitten by a dog that’s not actually a support animal, both the pet’s owner and the business that allowed the dog to enter the establishment may be liable for your injuries.

Do only service dogs have the legal right to enter buildings?

When most people think of support dogs, they think of dogs that help people who are blind get around. But service dogs are also specially trained to help individuals with many other types of disabilities. In addition to guiding people who are blind, service dogs can alert individuals who are deaf, wheelchair-bound, prone to seizures, or in need of other specialized assistance.

A service dog undergoes intensive training focused on specific tasks that are directly related to the handler’s disability. Service dogs are legally recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These heroic animals allow people with disabilities to easily access restaurants, stores, hotels, and other public places.

Business owners are permitted to ask a person who wants to bring an animal into their establishment if the dog is a service animal that’s required because of a disability. However, business owners cannot ask about the person’s disability or to see medical documentation.

Service dogs do not require a formal certification or registration by law. The ADA stipulates that service dogs are defined by their trained tasks, not by their certification status. Still, many organizations that train service dogs provide identification in the form of vests or ID cards for them as a convenience to their handlers.

Are emotional support animals considered service dogs?

Emotional support animals (ESAs) provide comfort and support to individuals facing emotional or psychological challenges. Unlike service dogs, ESAs are not required to undergo specialized training to perform tasks; their primary role is to offer companionship, which can alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and certain phobias.

For emotional support animals, there is no government-recognized certification or registration process. While many websites offer to certify or register emotional support animals, they are not recognized by law and do not grant any legal rights.

ESAs are recognized under certain housing laws, which grant them access to no-pet housing and on some airlines. But ESAs are generally not allowed in public areas where pets are not permitted, such as restaurants or private businesses.

Regarding service dogs in Virginia, the legal framework governing these animals is based on the ADA. In contrast to ESAs, people with disabilities have the right to be accompanied by their service dogs in most public places, including businesses and government facilities.

The presence of non-service dogs in stores has become a contentious issue. When customers claim that their ESAs are service dogs, it undermines the rights of those with legitimate service dogs by increasing skepticism and scrutiny from business owners and other patrons. The store must balance the need to comply with the ADA with maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for all customers.

Who can I call if a dog bites my loved one or me?

Call us at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. As personal injury lawyers, helping our friends and neighbors get the resources you need to recover after a dog bite is not just a job for us. Ken and I are former members of the United States Marines, and we consider it a calling to work tirelessly for the justice that accident victims deserve.

When you put your trust in GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys, you don’t pay anything unless we win your case. We call it our Zero Fee Guarantee.

Give us a call at (804) 413-6777 or toll-free at (855) 781-6777 to schedule your free consultation. Find out your best options with no obligation.

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