There’s a Dog in My Restaurant! How to Respond to Service Dogs.

February 10th, 2008 by Dan

While many of us see Service Dogs working, often we’re unsure of how to handle them – especially if they are entering an establishment where dogs are not usually permitted. These canine companions are invaluable to their handlers and it’s incredibly important that employees know how to respond in these situations.

Golden Retriever Service Dog

Photo by Heartlover1717

Service Dog Etiquette for Employees
If you work in any capacity that involves public access, such as food service or retail, you are likely to encounter service dogs and their handlers. Disaboom.com, a website connecting the millions of people touched or affected by disability, has provided the following etiquette tips, which will ensure that you do not commit a faux pas in communicating with and assisting owners and their service animals.

Greet the handler politely and, if necessary, inquire as to whether or not their dog is a service animal.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may not ask for proof that a dog is a service animal. You may ask if the handler is disabled, whether or not the dog is a service animal, and what tasks it performs to mitigate the handler’s disability. It is considered rude to require that a handler answer these questions before entering a place of business or before being welcomed as you would greet any other customer. Any dog that performs tasks to mitigate a handler’s disability, including medical alert dogs and psychiatric service dogs, has the right to full public access.

Inform coworkers that there is a working service dog in the store.
If others will be assisting the service dog’s handler, inform them that there is a service animal with the customer. This ensures that the handler does not have to answer questions about his or her disability and service animal multiple times, and that any coworkers who are afraid of dogs or have allergies are able to accommodate their own needs by remaining away from the dog.

Do not pet or distract a working dog.
Service dogs are first and foremost dogs, and, like any dog, can be distracted. A distracted service dog could lead to an injury or other disastrous consequences for its handler. Ensure that no one in the store pets or distracts the service dog, including coworkers and other customers. Parents may need to be politely reminded to direct their children not to approach the working dog.

Ask if the handler needs any special arrangements to accommodate his or her partner.
Diners with service dogs may request corner seating to minimize distractions to the dog. Similarly, moviegoers with dogs may need seating further away from speakers, so as to protect the dog’s sensitive hearing. A bowl of water may be welcomed for the dog. Offer your assistance and meet the team’s needs as best you are able.
What if a service animal is disruptive?

One hopes that any dog identified as a service animal will be well behaved, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. In the rare event that a service animal is disrupting the operations of the business, such as barking during a movie or threatening to bite customers, you are within your legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to insist that the dog be removed from your place of business.





14 Responses to “There’s a Dog in My Restaurant! How to Respond to Service Dogs.”

  1. What is a Service Animal? | Dog Reflections Says:

    [...] Federal laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in public places. Service animals are not considered [...]

  2. Colby Says:

    Thanks for the informative article. I happen to be a guide dog puppy raiser and appreciate when people understand the etiquette surrounding working service dogs.

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    [...] Service dogs and their handlers in Oregon will be watching their step when riding public transportation for the foreseeable future, as the local transportation authority puzzles over why wet train platforms are shocking dogs’ paws. Patricia Kepler reported that her guide dog, Reuben, was shocked four times while trying to board the train. A puppy in training also received a shock at a station one stop west of the station where Kepler and Reuben boarded. [...]

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