Everyone with disabilities must have equal access to all City programs and services. This includes people who use service and/or support animals.
Service and support animals
A service animal is any dog or in some cases, a miniature horse, that is trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Examples of such tasks may include but are not limited to: guiding individuals who are blind or who have low vision, assisting people with mobility disabilities with physical tasks, alerting an individual to a seizure, or providing medication reminders.
No Registration Tags or Vests
There is no federal law that mandates the registration of service animals or requires them to wear specific tags or vests. Although not required by law, many service animals wear harnesses, capes, or vests for easy identification. The absence of such identifiers does not negate an animal’s status as a service animal. The key distinction is their specialized training to perform tasks that assist individuals with disabilities.
A support animal is an animal of any species that is used by a person with a disability to provide companionship, but it is not trained to perform specific tasks to assist a person with their disability. They may have basic obedience training, but not specific training to perform a service, as defined by Federal and state law Their presence and bond with their handler may provide symptom relief to people with a number of disabilities.
In both cases, you must make sure that your animal is current on its vaccinations and you maintain a current rabies tag. Tags that identify your animal as a service or support animal are not required.
Licensing for Dogs
In San Francisco, all dogs over the age of four months are required by law to be licensed. This includes service dogs. Licensing helps the City ensure that all dogs, including service animals, are vaccinated against rabies and can be quickly reunited with their owners if they become lost.
For additional details, resources, or assistance concerning service animals in San Francisco, or to learn more about licensing your service dog, please contact the City of San Francisco's Animal Care & Control at 415-554-6364 or visit their official website.
Follow the guidelines
You are responsible for your animal’s behavior. Any service or support animal that is not under control may be asked to be removed from the premises.
“Under control” means the animal must:
- Be house-trained
- NOT be disruptive or aggressive
- NOT be on furniture
- NOT be fed or watered indoors
In most cases, a handler must use a leash, harness or tether with their animal at all times.
For service animals, an exception may be made under the following circumstances:
First, an exception is available if the leash, harness or tether would interfere with the service animal’s work. In these instances, the leash, harness or tether may be removed for the duration of tasks that require such removal only, should be secured on the service animal again once a task is complete, and must remain on at other times. If the leash, harness or tether is removed because of this exception, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal.
Second, an exception is available for service animals if the person’s disability prevents use of the leash, harness or tether.
If a service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if it is not housebroken, that animal may be excluded or asked to be removed.
In addition, if the presence of the service animal would fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program provided to the public, the animal may be excluded. For example, a service dog may be excluded from areas of a zoo where a dog is prey or predator to the animal on display, or from an ambulance if its presence would interfere with emergency responder’s ability to work.
For more information, please refer to: https://www.ada.gov/resources/service-animals-faqs
Places allowing service animals
By Federal and state law, service animals are allowed in most public and private spaces in San Francisco.
There are limited exceptions for spaces such as areas of a zoo where the animals on display are the natural prey or predators of dogs, and areas of a hospital where the presence of an animal may be incompatible with a sterile environment.
For more information, please refer to: Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA | ADA.gov, and ADA Requirements: Service Animals | ADA.gov.
For airplane travel:
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) follows federal law, and service animals are allowed in the airport facility.
Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) a service animal means a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.
Under the ACAA, the following categories of animals are not treated as service animals: animal species other than dogs, emotional support animals, comfort animals, companionship animals, and service animals in training.
Places allowing support animals
Currently, support animals are allowed in buildings owned and/or operated by the City and County of San Francisco, and in certain circumstances, as a reasonable accommodation in housing.
Private or non-San Francisco City and County spaces such as stores, restaurants, colleges and universities, or places of entertainment must permit service animals. However, support animals may or may not be permitted at the discretion of the establishment.
In all cases, the animal must be under control.
Renting an apartment, house or dormitory with a support animal
If you rent, you may have your support animal at home as a "reasonable accommodation" for your disability. This is true even if it is a "no-pets" building. Please refer to the Fair Housing Act for details.
If you would like to request a reasonable accommodation for your support animal, you must inform your landlord about your request.
Your landlord may ask you to:
- Get a letter from a doctor or health professional explaining the connection between your disability and your request for a support animal in your home
- Get proof of current vaccinations for your animal
- Sign an agreement taking full responsibility for your animal's behavior in the building
Your landlord may not ask you to:
- Disclose your disability type or medical condition
- Disclose your disability to others without your permission
If you are denied access
If you experience discrimination at a private business or restaurant, call the Human Rights Commission at (415) 252-2500 or email them at email@example.com
You may also contact California Department of Fair Employment and Housing at (800) 884-1684 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.