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Sample Letters for Service Animals

Use these sample letters to advocate for your right to use a service animals in public places, and to report violations.

Sample letter for place of public accommodation

Date 

Dear Business Owner: 

I am a person with a disability who uses a service animal. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and N.C. state law, I have the right to use my service animal in areas that are open to the public, including those of type of business. This letter will provide you with information on my rights.       

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects me from discrimination based on my disability.1 Places of public accommodation are forbidden to discriminate against me and other persons with disabilities.2 Public accommodations are any place, building, or outdoor space that a member of the public can enter with or without a fee. Some examples of places of public accommodations include: hotels, restaurants, theaters, auditoriums, bakeries, clothing stores, professional offices of doctors, dentists, lawyers, gas stations, funeral parlors, stations used for public transportation, museums, galleries, parks, zoos, private schools, homeless shelters, day care centers, and gym.3

A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual.4 I am a person with a disability because I am substantially limited in the major life activity/activities of ____________________________. My service animal is individually trained to assist me by ______________________________.   

Denying people with disabilities service and/or providing us with a lesser service than is provided to persons without disabilities is discrimination prohibited by the ADA.5  Unless an accommodation for a person with a disability would fundamentally alter the nature of your services or result in significant difficulty or expense, you must: (1) modify your policies, practices, or procedures; (2) provide auxiliary aids and services; and (3) remove architectural and communication barriers when readily achievable to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy equal access to your services or facility.6   

An example of a reasonable modification to your facility’s policies includes allowing the use of service animals in your facility.7 Service animals are defined by the ADA as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.8 Along with dogs, the ADA recognizes miniature horses as service animals.9  

Please be advised that the ADA does not require me to register my service animal with a state or federal agency to qualify it as a “real” or “official” service animal, nor is there a mandatory service animal registration program in North Carolina. Thus, you may not require any further verification that my animal is a service animal beyond asking what tasks it has been individually trained to do.  Furthermore, it is a class 3 misdemeanor under North Carolina state law to deny me access to your business with my service animal.10 

If you are hesitant to allow my service animal in your business because you fear that it will harm the health or safety of other patrons, you must be able to demonstrate both the severity of the risk posed and the likelihood of an injury actually occurring.11 For instance, if you are concerned about admitting a service animal into a “dander free” area or because of allergies, you must conduct an individualized assessment to determine the risk posed by the service animal and whether reasonable modifications may be undertaken to mitigate the risk.12 Courts generally find that service animals are to be allowed in restaurants, hospitals and other areas open to the public, regardless of other’s allergies, immuno-deficiencies, or fears related to dogs.13 Also, please be advised that many courts have found a blanket policy banning all animals, such as “no dogs” policies, are discriminatory under the ADA if exceptions are not made for service animals.14 As demonstrated by the cases referenced in the footnotes below, places of public accommodation must satisfy a very high burden before excluding service animals from their facility or particular locations in their facility.    

If you have any questions or would like more information about your responsibility to accommodate persons with disabilities, please visit the Department of Justice ADA website regarding service animals or consult with your attorney. Your professional association may also have information about accommodating clients. You may also want to consult with your accountant about the positive tax benefits available for providing accommodations under the ADA. 

Please contact me in writing or by phone within ten business days to let me know of your service animal accommodation policy going forward. My number is ___________________________ and my address is ________________________________.  I look forward to hearing from you.    

Sincerely, 

Your Name 

1. 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.
2. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); 28 C.F.R. § 36.101.
3. 42 U.S.C.A. § 12181(7); 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
4. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1).
5. See 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(1)(A).
6. See 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A).
7. See 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c).
8. 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
9. 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(9)(i).
10. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 168-4.5 (2005).
11. See 28 C.F.R. § 36.208.
12. See 28 C.F.R. § 36.208; see also Lockett v. Catalina Channel Express, 496 F.3d 1061 (C.D. Cal. 2007), aff’d, 496 F.3d 1061 (9th Cir. 2007) (statement that lounge was reserved as “dander free” insufficient under ADA; ferry boat required to attempt modification of policies or procedures to allow service dog in “dander free” zone).
13. Branson v. West, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7343 (N.D. Ill. 1999) (ruling that service animal is allowed in hospital setting; was reasonable to restrict service animal from hospital operating room).
14. See Day v. Sumner Regional Health Systems, Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94615 (M.D.Tenn. 2007) (finding that service animals in ER treatment area are not, as matter of law, a direct threat to health or safety).


Sample letter for government program or service 

Dear Government Program Director: 

I am a person with a disability who uses a service animal.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and North Carolina state law, I have the right to use my service animal when accessing local and state government programs and services.  This letter will provide you with information on my rights.       

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects me from discrimination based on my disability.1  A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual.2  I am a person with a disability because I am substantially limited in the major life activity/activities of ____________________________. My service animal is individually trained to assist me by ______________________________.   

Denying people with disabilities service and/or providing us with a lesser service than is provided to persons without disabilities is discrimination prohibited by the ADA.3  Unless an accommodation for a person with a disability would fundamentally alter the nature of your services or result in significant difficulty or expense, you must: (1) modify your policies, practices, or procedures; and (2) provide auxiliary aids and services to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy equal access to your programs and activities.4   

An example of a reasonable modification to your program’s policies includes permitting the use of service animals in your facility.5 Service animals are defined by the ADA as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.6 Along with dogs, the ADA recognizes miniature horses as service animals.7  

Please be advised that the ADA does not require me to register my service animal with a state or federal agency to qualify it as a “real” or “official” service animal, nor is there a mandatory service animal registration program in North Carolina. Thus, you may not require any further verification that my animal is a service animal beyond asking what tasks it has been individually trained to do. Furthermore, it is a class 3 misdemeanor under North Carolina state law to deny me access to your business with my service animal.8  

If you are hesitant to allow my use of a service animal because you fear that it will harm the health or safety of other patrons, you must be able to demonstrate both the severity of the risk posed and the likelihood of an injury actually occurring.75 For instance, if you are concerned about admitting a service animal into a “dander free” area or because of allergies, you must conduct an individualized assessment to determine the risk posed by the service animal and whether reasonable modifications may be undertaken to mitigate the risk.10 Courts generally find that service animals are to be allowed in restaurants, hospitals and other areas open to the public, regardless of other’s allergies, immuno-deficiencies, or fears related to dogs.11 Also, please be advised that many courts have found a blanket policy banning all animals, such as “no dogs” policies, are discriminatory under the ADA if exceptions are not made for service animals.12 Government programs and services must satisfy a very high burden before excluding service animals from their facility or particular locations in their facility.    

If you have any questions or would like more information about your responsibility to accommodate persons with disabilities, please visit the Department of Justice ADA website regarding service animals at http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html or consult with your attorney.  Your professional association may also have information about accommodating clients.  You may also want to consult with your accountant about the positive tax benefits available for providing accommodations under the ADA. 

Please contact me in writing or by phone within ten business days to let me know of your service animal accommodation policy going forward.  My number is ___________________________ and my address is ________________________________.  I look forward to hearing from you.    

Sincerely,

Your Name

1. 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.
2. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1).
3. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.130.
4. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.130.
5. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.136.
6. 28 C.F.R. § 35.104.
7. 28 C.F.R. § 35.136(i).
8. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 168-4.5 (2005).
9. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.139.
10. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.139; see also Lockett v. Catalina Channel Express, 496 F.3d 1061 (C.D. Cal. 2007), aff’d, 496 F.3d 1061 (9th Cir. 2007) (statement that lounge was reserved as “dander free” insufficient under ADA; ferry boat required to attempt modification of policies or procedures to allow service dog in “dander free” zone).
11. Branson v. West, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7343 (N.D. Ill. 1999) (ruling that service animal is allowed in hospital setting; was reasonable to restrict service animal from hospital operating room).
12. See Day v. Sumner Regional Health Systems, Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94615 (M.D.Tenn. 2007) (finding that service animals in ER treatment area are not, as matter of law, a direct threat to health or safety).


Sample letter to law enforcement and/or magistrate

Date 

Dear Sir or Madam: 

I am a person with a disability who uses a service animal.  Under North Carolina state law, I have the right to use my service animal when accessing places of public accommodations, like private businesses.  

North Carolina state law, in addition to federal laws, protects me from discrimination based on my disability.1  A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual.2  I am a person with a disability because I am substantially limited in the major life activities of ______________. My service animal is individually trained to assist me by __________. On date & time, I went to business name & address with my service animal to __________.  Business owner/employee name would not allow me to {in this section: provide detailed timeline, with names of witnesses}. 

Please be advised that the ADA does not require me to register my service animal to qualify it as a “real” or “official” service animal, nor is there a mandatory service animal registration program in North Carolina. Further verification that my animal is a service animal beyond asking what tasks it has been individually trained to do is not required. Furthermore, it is a class 3 misdemeanor under North Carolina state law to deny me access to your business with my service animal.3  

I respectfully request that a criminal summons be issued against NAME OF INDIVIDUAL BUSINESS OWNER/MANAGER pursuant to N.C. General Statute § 168-4.5, because “it is unlawful to deprive a person with a disability or a person training a service animal of any rights granted the person pursuant to G.S. 168-4.2 through G.S. 168-4.4, or of any rights or privileges granted the general public with respect to being accompanied by animals or to charge any fee for the use of the service animal. Violation of this section shall be a Class 3 misdemeanor.” 

Please contact me in writing or by phone within five (5) business days to let me know of any action that will be taken based on my experience. My number is ______________and my address is ______________________.  I look forward to hearing from you.   

Sincerely, 

Your Name 

1. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 168-2; N.C. Gen. Stat. § 168-4.2; 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.
2. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1).
3. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 168-4.5 (2005).

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