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Traveling with Service Animals

The Department of Transportation answers some "Frequently Asked Questions" about service animals.

Are transit providers required to allow a passenger to travel with an ADA-defined service animal?

Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.167(d), transit entities are required to allow service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in vehicles and facilities.

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition of a service animal?

Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.3, “service animal” is defined as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.” DOT ADA regulation 49 C.F.R. Section 37.167(d) requires transit entities to permit service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in vehicles and facilities. Appendix D to Section 37.167 contains further important information on service animals. It is important to note that while the U.S. Department of Justice has amended the definition of “service animal” for purposes of its ADA regulations under Titles II and III of the ADA, for state and local governments and places that are open to the public, the definition under DOT ADA regulations for transportation has not changed. Therefore, members of the public may find that some service animals may no longer be considered service animals once they leave a transportation system.

Are transit providers required to allow a passenger to travel with a comfort animal?

No. Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.167(d), transit entities are only required to allow service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in vehicles and facilities. DOT ADA regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.3 define a service animal as an animal “individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.” If an animal’s only function is to provide emotional support or comfort for the rider, that animal would not fall under the regulatory training-based definition of a service animal. Simply providing comfort is something that animal does passively, by its nature or through the perception of the owner. However, the ADA does not prohibit a transit agency from choosing to accommodate pets and comfort animals, which would be a local decision.

On the MBTA: "Service animals are allowed on the T at all times. During off-peak hours, non-service dogs are allowed at the discretion of T vehicle operators. Dogs must be properly leashed and are not allowed to annoy riders or take up a seat. For safety and convenience during rush hours, small domestic animals must be carried in lap-sized containers and out of the way of exits."

On The RIDE: “Animals (i.e. comfort/therapy animals or pets which may cause allergic reactions to others) are not allowed, with the exception of Service Animals.”

May a passenger with a disability be required by transit personnel to show proof that an animal is a service animal?

Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.167(d), transit providers are required to permit service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in vehicles and facilities. Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. A transit provider may ask if an animal is a service animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform, but cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person's disability. A service animal may not be excluded unless the animal is out of control and the animal's owner does not take effective action to control it or the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

May a transit entity limit how many service animals may accompany a single passenger?

No. Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations do not limit the number of service animals that may accompany a single individual. As long as an animal meets the definition of a service animal and is kept under the control of the rider, a transportation provider may not refuse to carry the animal. It is possible that an individual might have service animals that are trained to provide different tasks.

What about taxis?

Taxicab drivers are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act if they refuse to pick up people with service animals. According to the Department of Transportation: "Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to individuals with disabilities. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with disabilities and their service animals than they charge to other persons for the same or equivalent service."