How to Get Paperwork on an Employee’s Service Animal 2022


Under state and federal laws, employers generally must allow employees to bring service animals with them into the workplace. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require service animals to be registered or certified. There also are no specific training requirements for service animals that are mandated by federal law. However, state law may have general requirements for any animals, including service animals, that are allowed in the workplace. However, the ADA preempts state laws that are more restrictive in the provision of substantial rights than the ADA, if the ADA applies to the situation at hand.


Part 1 of 3:Requesting Reasonable Documentation

1Confirm the existence of the employee's disability. Under the ADA, you can request medical certification from your employee. Your employee must bring a signed statement from a healthcare provider stating the nature of their disability.

Generally, if an employee wants to use a service animal in the workplace, they must come to you with a request to use that animal as a reasonable accommodation of their disability.

Within this context, you may require your employee to present you with proof of the disability they claim to have.

The ADA does not require you to allow employees to bring emotional support animals into the workplace. However, some state laws do extend protection to emotional support animals under certain conditions.

The certification of the employee's disability typically will come from their treating physician. The ADA does allow you to request the employee go to another healthcare professional or specialist of your choosing to confirm the disability.

However, if you make this request you must pay for the employee's examination.

2Ask the employee what the animal does for them. You have the right to understand the service animal's usefulness so you can evaluate whether it is necessary for the employee to have the animal while they're working.

You cannot use medical records obtained through this process for other purposes. To do so will violate the HIPAA law.

Only by understanding the animal's purpose can you determine whether the employee needs the animal in the workplace.

Some types of service animals would be necessary regardless of the employee's job duties. For example, if the employee has a service dog because of epilepsy, this dog generally would be necessary for that employee performing any job.

In most cases it is up to the employee, rather than you whether the service animal is necessary for the employee to fulfill his or her job duties.

Keep in mind that you cannot request that the employee use some alternate method rather than having a service animal. The ADA does not permit you to dictate your employee's treatment or management of their disability.

3Seek evidence of the animal's training. Because believing the animal would cause undue disruption to the workplace, or endanger other employees, you can ask the employee to provide evidence of the animal's training.

Although the ADA does not require service animals to undergo any particular training, your state may have more specific guidelines for service animals accompanying their handlers in workplaces. However, if these laws are more restrictive than the ADA, they do not hold force of law under what is known as the federal preemption doctrine.

Generally, you are allowed to require proof that the animal is trained sufficiently that it will not cause an undue disruption in the workplace.

4Check state licensing and permit requirements. While there are no federal requirements regarding the licensing or registration of service animals, your state may require service animals in the workplace to be licensed and up-to-date on recommended vaccinations.

For example, the animal may be required to wear state or county registration and rabies vaccine tags.

These requirements generally apply to all owners of domesticated animals in your area. The employee should easily be able to provide proof of these licenses or registrations.

Some states also may require employees who bring service animals to their workplace to present proof of regular veterinary exams that show the animal to be in good health.

5Consider getting an expert opinion. If you are unable to accurately assess the documentation the employee provides concerning their service animal's use and training, you may want to have someone who is knowledgeable about service animals review the information provided.

Your state may have certification requirements or review boards that can assist you in understanding whether a service animal's training is sufficient to allow its presence in the workplace.

A nonprofit organization or veterinary office typically would have personnel on hand who could evaluate the information the employee has presented to you.

If you want to have someone else look at the documentation, make sure you get the employee's permission. Doing so behind their back could be considered a violation of their privacy.

Part 2 of 3:Making Reasonable Accommodations

1Assess whether the animal would cause an undue disruption. Undue disruption of your business is a legitimate reason to refuse to allow the employee to bring their service animal into the workplace. However, you must be careful in making this determination.

If you believe the animal would cause an undue disruption, you may want to consult an attorney before you refuse the animal.

Keep in mind that various state or local health and sanitation codes are no reason to refuse a service animal. Where animals are not allowed, such as in restaurants, exceptions always are made for service animals.

Additionally, fear of the animal is not considered enough to overcome the disabled employee's right to have a service animal under the ADA. If you or one of your employees is afraid of the animal, you must fine some way to make accommodations.

2Consult the employee regarding necessary adjustments. If you've decided to allow the employee to bring the service animal to work, there may be changes that must be made to appropriately accommodate the employee and their animal.Trustworthy SourceState of MassachusettsOfficial website for the State of MassachusettsGo to source

For example, you may have to time the employee's breaks so that they can take their service animal outside to relive it at various intervals.

The employee's work station also may have to be rearranged to make room for the service animal.

The best way to determine what adjustments will need to be made is to ask the employee personally. They typically can look over the workplace and requirements and give you a good understanding of how best to accommodate their animal.

3Remind the employee of their responsibilities. Where an employee is allowed to bring a service animal to work, they are responsible for the care and feeding of the animal. This includes ensuring the animal is clean and doesn't bother the other employees.Trustworthy SourceState of MassachusettsOfficial website for the State of MassachusettsGo to source

The responsible employee also must take care to ensure that their service animal is not unduly disruptive and does not cause problems for other employees.

Keep in mind that as the employer, you don't have to ensure the service animal has adequate food and water. However, you may need to adjust facilities so that the animal can access that food and water.

You may require that the responsible employee keep the service animal on a leash or other restraint so the animal isn't free to roam about the workplace.

4Determine whether you need to create an animal relief area. In some workplaces, there may be an out-of-the-way alley or other area where the service animal can relieve itself. However, in some situations you may need to create or designate an area.

For example, if you own a restaurant or retail store, you typically would want the area to be well away from diners or customers.

You also want this area to be in a place where it wouldn't cause any potential sanitation or environmental hazards.

Work with the responsible employee to identify a suitable location, if necessary. The employee also must understand they will be in charge of disposing of the animal's waste properly.

Part 3 of 3:Educating Other Employees

1Create a written policy regarding employee use of service animals. Employee use of service animals may not be something you've thought about until you've been confronted with it. Now that you have an employee using a service animal at work, a written policy keeps things clear.

You should have your policy looked over by an attorney licensed to practice federal law in your state. You can be sued for having a policy that is not in complete compliance with the governing case law.

Your state government may have model policies you can use, or you can check with various human resources societies or organizations.

Make sure the policy sets forth your company's responsibilities to welcome service animals as reasonable accommodations for disabilities under federal and state law.

Specify the areas where service animals will and will not be permitted, and any additional requirements or restrictions.

Provide a specific process other employees should follow if they have a problem or concern with the service animal.

Generally, you want to specify a particular person who is responsible for handling all employee concerns or feedback regarding the presence of the service animal in the workplace.

2Provide information to all employees. Before the service animal appears at the workplace, make sure all employees understand that the animal will be present, and how the animal is supposed to be treated.

If the responsible employee wants co-workers to ask permission before petting or interacting with the service animal, make sure your other employees are aware of this.

Letting your employees know in advance is also a good time to find out if anyone has any fears or allergies that need to be addressed before the animal enters the workplace.

For example, if one of your employees is allergic to dogs and a service dog will be entering the workplace, you'll need to find out what can be done for the allergic employee.

This typically is a joint responsibility between the responsible employee bringing in the service animal and you as the employer.

For example, if an allergic employee will be okay with allergy medication, you may have the responsibility of providing that medication. You also are responsible for cleaning and maintaining your workplace.

At the same time, the responsible employee may be responsible for bathing or grooming the animal so that dander is kept to a minimum in the workplace.

3Invite the responsible employee to introduce their service animal. Particularly if the workplace involves a lot of people moving around and a lot of distractions, the responsible employee may want to take their service animal around to get familiar with the workplace and the people in it before the first regular shift on the job.

Taking a brief tour of the workplace can familiarize the animal with the area as well as familiarizing your employees with the animal.

The responsible employee also may want to work for briefer periods of time during the first few days they bring the service animal to work, to give the animal the opportunity to adjust.

4Respond promptly to employee questions and concerns. You cannot refuse a service animal simply because another employee is frightened by the animal, but any legitimate concerns or problems with the animal should be addressed as soon as possible.Trustworthy SourceState of MassachusettsOfficial website for the State of MassachusettsGo to source

You have the right to refuse a service animal if it growls or snaps at another employee, or otherwise threatens another employee or customer.

This is part of the animal's training for which the animal's handler is responsible.

In other situations, the problem may be resolved by altering the responsible employee's schedule so that they are not in the workplace at the same time as the employee with the problem. You also might consider moving the employee with the problem to another department or area.