Thursday, June 9, 2011

UPDATE: Service and Support Animals in Places of Business and Other Areas

BOMA San Francisco Members:

UPDATE - June 9, 2011

We've had a number of inquires about the updated regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that are in effect as of March 15, 2011.  The new regulations affect access for people with various service or emotional support animals. Below are some key points you should be aware of.  Please note that the City and County of San Francisco's Policy Remains Unchanged.

Changes to the Definition of Service Animal
  • ONLY dogs (and in some rare cases miniature horses) that are trained to perform tasks for an individual with a physical or mental disability, are now considered service animals under the ADA.
  • This means that other trained animals such as cats or monkeys or birds are no longer allowed in public as service animals.
  • Likewise emotional support or assistance animals that help alleviate symptoms for people with psychiatric disabilities are NOT covered under the ADA.
However, San Francisco policy will remain the same for all city services and for all housing. Both the Fair Housing Amendments’ Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which cities are required to comply with, has a broader definition of service animal. With this broader definition, our current policy will remain in effect for most situations. This means:

You CAN Bring Your Service / Support Animal (of any species) into
  • City and County buildings, agencies and departments such as City Hall, Department of Public Health or the County Clerk.
  • Contracted agencies and programs such as public health clinics, case management or mental health services.
  • Public or private housing, including SROs, homeless shelters and residential treatment programs funded by or contracted with the City.
Under the new ADA Definition, however, there may be some places that will choose to restrict access to service animals that are not dogs, and other support animals. These places include:
  • Restaurants, cafeterias or retailers
  • Hotels, motels, art galleries, movie theaters
  • Offices of private doctors, lawyers and other practitioners not contracted with the City.
  • For more information regarding these new changes, please contact the intake staff at the Mayor’s Office on Disability at or (415) 554-6789.  
  • Please click here for the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Technical Assistance document that addresses common questions regarding service animals; and here for California's definition of service animals and additional resources.

Original Post - January 10, 2010

As an addendum to the information we posted on the blog related to service animals in commercial buildings and places of business recently, please click here to view the guidelines for service and support animals in San Francisco including:

  • Who qualifies to own a service or support animal?
  • What is a service animal (those that are trained to do work, e.g., dogs, monkeys, birds and miniature horses)?
  • What is a support animal (those that support people with psychological disabilities, e.g., a cat or snake)?
  • An individual's rights with a service and/or support animal.
  • The difference between a service or support animal or pet.
If you have any questions concerning a service or support animal in your building, please contact the Mayor's Office on Disability at or (415) 554-6789.

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