Hotel Online
News for the Hospitality Executive


Updating Service Animal Policies of Your Hotel or Other 'Place of Lodging'

By Jim Butler, Martin Orlick and David Sudeck of the Global Hospitality Group®
Author of
October 5, 2011

ADA Defense Lawyers
. What are some of the most common questions asked of our ADA Defense Lawyers? Many of them relate to "service animal" policies at hotels, restaurants and other places of public accommodation. One of the most read articles on Hotel Law Blog was a posting I did 5 years ago on this subject. Who's crying "Woof"? What you must know about the ADA requirements for disabled guests and their service animals . . .

But with recent developments, we thought it was time to update that information with the effect of the latest amendments to the regulations on this subject published by the Department of Justice implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Many thanks to hotel lawyers David Sudeck and Marty Orlick for their help on this article.

Service animal policies for your hotel
or other place of "public accomodation"


Jim Butler, Martin Orlick, and David Sudeck | Hotel Lawyers
The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010. Certain of these amendments became effective as of March 15, 2011, including revisions to the provisions of the ADA governing service animals.

Rules Relating to Service Animals

First and foremost...according to federal law, service animals are not pets. For example, health codes that prohibit animals in restaurants do not apply to service animals. Your hotel may be "pet free" for some purposes, but that policy cannot apply to service animals. The law says that service animals are working animals that have been trained to perform tasks for disabled persons such as guiding the blind, alerting the deaf, pulling wheelchairs, providing seizure alerts, and calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack (which must be distinguished from a "comfort" animal, as discussed below).

Dogs and Miniature Horses as Service Animals

In the new provisions, the federal law was changed to more narrowly define "service animals" to include individually trained dogs which assist their owners with physical impairments. Under the ADA, as revised, "comfort animals" (whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support) are no longer considered service animals.

In addition to the provisions about dogs as service animals, the revised ADA regulations now have a provision about miniature horses (which generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds) that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Entities covered by the ADA must now also modify their policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable. The revised regulations provide for the weighing of certain factors to determine if miniature horses can be accommodated in a facility: "(1) whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (2) whether the miniature horse is under the owner's control; (3) whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse's type, size, and weight; and (4) whether the miniature horse's presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility."

Impermissable exclusion of a service animal or other inappropriate action is a violation of the ADA, which applies in all 50 states and to all types of public accommodations, including all "places of lodging." The definitions of these properties was expanded as of March 15, 2011 to cover many timeshare and other vacation ownership properties and also includes most hotels, motels, inns, restaurants, sports facilities, stadiums, wineries, retail stores, apartment houses and senior living facilities. Improper application of the ADA can put you in a court defending an expensive lawsuit. Note however, that compliance with federal law does not mean that you are free of liability; state and local laws may differ from the ADA, and these accessibility laws may still prohibit a public accommodation from restricting access to animals that are not considered "service animals" under the ADA.

Limitations Relating to Service Animals

Under the ADA, hotels and all other public accommodations are required to treat disabled guests with service animals like all other guests. Specifically, they are to be provided the same services and access to all areas of the property where other guests are generally allowed. If other guests complain of the mere presence of the service animal, the business' staff should explain that the law requires "places of public accommodation" to let disabled guests have service animals.

A business may ask only if an animal is a service animal and what tasks the animal has been trained to perform. It is not permissible to require a special ID card or certification for the animal or any proof of the person's disability. Furthermore, disabled persons cannot be charged extra fees or deposits based on the presence of the service animal (even if such a fee is generally charged for pets), including any clean-up charges (unless due to damages caused by the animal).

Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless such restraints interfere with the service animal's work or the individual's disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the service animal through voice or other controls. The owner/handler of a service animal is responsible for controlling the service animal and paying to repair any damage caused by the service animal. If the animal does become unreasonably disruptive or threatening, the owner is responsible for controlling it. If it cannot be controlled, the animal may be excluded, but the guest should be welcome to stay without the animal. Courts have made it clear that unless a service animal is disruptive (in a manner unrelated to its service function) or dangerous, it may not be removed or excluded. In any event, most service animals are particularly trained to be around people and are not dangerous.

The property owner and operator are not required to provide special services for service animals like food, water, doggy bags, leashes, or to clean a service animal's "accidents." However, the legislative history of the ADA indicates that if the staff cleans the rooms generally and puts guests' items away, then the staff should do the same with the animal's accoutrements.

Establishing Legal Policies is Critical

There were a host of other changes in the 2010 amendments to the ADA (some of which became effective on March 15, 2011 and some of which will become effective on March 15, 2012). Contact us to learn more or to have us prepare a written policy for your property with respect to service animals.

ADA Defense Resources

You can access the full library of ADA materials on Hotel Law Blog by going to the home page, selecting the tab at the top that says "HOTEL LAW TOPICS", and then clicking on "ADA Defense" in the drop down menu . . . or by clicking here.

My colleagues and fellow members of the Global Hospitality Group®, Marty Orlick and David Sudeck recently led a Lorman webinar on the 2010 amendments to the Americans With Disabilities Act. You can access it on demand at:

The Changing Landscape of ADA Litigation and Compliance Practice in the Hospitality Industry

ADA standards relating to service animals was just one of many topics covered in this webinar.

This is Jim Butler, author of and hotel lawyer, signing off. We've done more than $60 billion of hotel transactions and have developed innovative solutions to help investors be successful in bidding for hotel acquisitions, and helping investors and lenders to unlock value from troubled hotel transactions. Who's your hotel lawyer?


Our Perspective. We represent hotel lenders, owners and investors. We have helped our clients find business and legal solutions for more than $60 billion of hotel transactions, involving more than 1,300 properties all over the world. For more information, please contact Jim Butler at [email protected] or +1 (310) 201-3526.

Jim Butler is a founding partner of JMBM, and Chairman of its Global Hospitality Group® and Chinese Investment Group™. Jim is one of the top hospitality attorneys in the world. GOOGLE "hotel lawyer" and you will see why.

Jim and his team are more than "just" great hotel lawyers. They are also hospitality consultants and business advisors. They are deal makers. They can help find the right operator or capital provider. They know who to call and how to reach them.

JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®
The hotel lawyers in the Global Hospitality Group® of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell (JMBM) comprise the premier hospitality practice in a full-service law firm and are the authors of the Hotel Law Blog. We represent hotel owners, developers, investors and lenders and have helped our clients find business and legal solutions for more than $60 billion of hotel transactions, involving more than 1,000 properties worldwide. For more information about the Global Hospitality Group®, go to For more information about full range of legal services provided by JMBM, go to

Jim Butler
[email protected]


Receive Your Hospitality Industry Headlines via Email for Free! Subscribe Here  

To Learn More About Your News Being Published on Hotel-Online Inquire Here
Also See: Hotel Industry Alert: Some things to feel (very) good about! / Jim Butler / September 2011

Hotel Lawyers in Phoenix: It's not just me. The market has changed in just the last 60 days! / Jim Butler / September 2011

Hotel Labor and Employment Lawyer Update: Controversial Union Rights Notice Subject to Legal Challenge - Employers Should Not Rush To Post It / Jim Butler & Scott Brink / September 2011

Hotel Franchise Lawyer: Hotel Franchise Agreements and the 5 Biggest Mistakes a Hotel Owner Can Make / Jim Butler & Robert Braun / September 2011

Hotel Labor and Employment Lawyer Alert: The NLRB is making it harder to stay union free / Jim Butler & Scott Brink / September 2011

Tips from Hotel Franchise and Management Lawyers: Beware the Trap of Changing Brand Standards / Jim Butler & Robert Braun / September 2011

Labor and Employment Alert: New Law Requires Employers to Post Employee Rights Notice by November 14, 2011; NLRB Publishes Final Rule for Notification of Employee Rights / Scott Brink , JMBM / September 2011

Hotel Lending Lawyer: What every hotel lender needs to know about hotel due diligence / Jim Butler & Guy Maisnik / September 2011

Hotel Lending Lawyer: What every hotel lender needs to know about Cash Controls / Jim Butler & Guy Maisnik / August 2011

Hotel Lawyers on Terminating Hotel Operators: M Edition Lawsuit Against Marriott Has a New Twist Marriott is Replaced Overnight / Jim Butler / August 2011

Hotel Lawyers on Terminating Hotel Operators: Turnberry Resort Drops Fairmont Flag / Jim Butler / August 2011

Hotel Lending Lawyer: What every hotel lender needs to know about SNDA's / Jim Butler & Guy Maisnik / August 2011

Hotel Lending Lawyer: What every hotel lender needs to know about HMAs and hotel franchise agreements / Jim Butler & Guy Maisnik / August 2011

Hotel Lawyer on the Importance of Brands - Intellectual Property Rights and What They Mean: Family Suites Resorts v. Viacom International d/b/a MTV Networks - a Suit Over Branding / Jim Butler / August 2011

Hotel Lawyer on the Fiduciary, Contractual and Agency Duties of Hotel Brokers - Host Hotels & Resorts LP v. Molinaro Koger Litigation / Jim Butler / August 2011

M Waikiki's Edition Lawsuit Against Marriott International and Ian Schrager - an Owner's HMA Dispute with Marriott and What it All Means / Jim Butler / August 2011

Hotel Investment: Why Asian investors are targeting U.S. hotels for purchase and investment, and what could it mean for you? / Jim Butler / August 2011

Hotel Developers: Why a "regional center" may be the key to financing your next hotel development or expansion. And what you need to know... / Jim Butler / July 2011

How to use the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program for financing / Jim Butler / July 2011

JMBM Announces Formation of the Chinese Investment Group™ - Hotels, Real Estate, EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visas / July 2011

Hotel Lawyer: How do you know when you should set up a captive insurance company for your hotel? Take our "litmus test". / Jim Butler & Gordon Schaller / July 2011

Hotel Lawyer: What you need to know about the "ancillary benefits" of setting up a captive insurance company / Jim Butler & Gordon Schaller / June 2011

Hotel Lawyer: Are you thinking about setting up a captive insurance company? Maybe you should be. . . / Jim Butler & Gordon Schaller / June 2011

Hotel Lawyer in New York with pre-NYU industry forecast: Sunny with occasional clouds and NO storms on the horizon / Jim Butler / June 2011

Hotel Lawyer with the Executive Roundtable Results; Debt is returning, equity is out looking, and we've passed the bottom of the trough. Why now is the time to purchase a hotel. / Jim Butler / June 2011

ADA Defense Lawyer: How to Quickly Lose Business. (No ADA-Compliant Reservation System) / Jim Butler & David Sudeck / May 2011

Hotel Lawyer with Fresh Perspectives on the Hotel Industry from Smith Travel / Jim Butler / May 2011

Hospitality Lawyers with PKF and Mark Woodworth's Lodging Overview / Jim Butler / May 2011

Hotel Lawyers' Updates on Capital and Debt Markets for Hotels, Transaction Sales Data and Financings / Jim Butler / May 2011

Hotel Lawyer with Updates on Hotel Cap Rates, Values and Transactions / Jim Butler / May 2011

Hotel Lawyer with nuggets from JMBM's Meet the Money® 2011 / Jim Butler / May 2011

Hotel Lawyer: The hotel transaction market is heating up! / Jim Butler / April 2011

Hotel Lawyer with good news! A new federal court decision upholds condo hotel structure. No "securities" involved as structured. Disgruntled condo hotel unit purchaser lawsuit dismissed. / Jim Butler / April 2011

Meet the Money®: Hotel Financing Renaissance is Underway! / Jim Butler / April 2011

JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® announces publication of The HMA Handbook, a FREE practical guide for negotiating Hotel Management Agreements for Hotel Owners, Developers, Investors and Lenders / March 2011

Buying a Hotel? Don't Buy an ADA Lawsuit or DOJ Investigation / Jim Butler / March 2011

Hotel Lawyer on Hotel Management Agreements: Exculpation Clauses for Protecting the Owner's Assets / Jim Butler / February 2011

ADA Defense Lawyer: How to handle an ADA lawsuit....and How not to do it / Jim Butler / February 2011

Hotel Lawyer: 5 Key Elements for Good Hotel Management Agreement Budget Provisions / Jim Butler / February 2011

How improving fundamentals make 2011 the year of "Great Expectations" for the Hotel Industry / Jim Butler / February 2011

Ask the Hotel Lawyer: 2011 is starting as the year of "Great Expectations" for the hotel industry! / Jim Butler / January 2011

Hotel ADA Defense Lawyer: How a recent ADA case affects all hotels but particularly conference centers and meeting hotels / Jim Butler / January 2011

Hotel Lawyer: So, You Think You Want to Buy a Hotel? For savvy investors, the time could be right / Jim Butler / January 2011

Sheraton Universal Hotel Sale Facilitated by JMBM's Global Hospitality Group® / Jim Butler / January 2011

To search Hotel Online data base of News and Trends Go to Hotel.OnlineSearch

Home | Welcome| Hospitality News
| Industry Resources

Please contact Hotel.Online with your comments and suggestions.