The vast majority of states have provisions in their legislative codes for service dogs, but Arizona does them all one better. The Arizonans With Disabilities Act, known as AzDA, covers horses as well. Of course, these are miniature horses, not Secretariat, but they’re legal service animals in Arizona all the same.
The requirements for services horses are the same as those for service dogs in Arizona. It’s OK if either the dog or the miniature horse is “in training.” No real distinction exists between those who are just starting out and those who have earned their stripes, but their primary service must be to perform disability-related tasks for humans with certain afflictions.
Arizona Service Dog Laws
Along with AzDA, the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA, prohibits the exclusion of service animals from public places or businesses. These include restaurants, grocery stores, motels, theaters, schools, banks, social service centers, government facilities and transportation services, whether publicly or privately owned. Businesses can have no-pets policies, but they can’t apply to service animals.
Business owners aren’t permitted to demand documentation from an owner to prove that the dog or horse is indeed trained or certified. The law doesn’t require that the animals wear tags, vests or any other proof of service dog certification in Arizona.
The ADA generally prohibits anyone from asking the animal’s handler about his or her disability, but there’s something of a loophole here. Business owners can ask if the animal is indeed a service dog and not a pet, and what task or job the animal is trained to do.
Disabilities Covered by the ADA
The ADA applies to hearing aid dogs, visual guide dogs, and seizure-alert and allergen-alert dogs. It covers dogs that can pull wheelchairs or that are trained to retrieve certain items for their owners, as well as those that assist with balance and mobility. But this is by no means a comprehensive list.
Read More: Disabilities That Allow Service Dogs
Emotional Support Animals
Service animals might also assist with afflictions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental, emotional and psychiatric disabilities. They might be trained to prevent self-harming behaviors or to press in closely and calmingly when their humans are on the verge of suffering panic attacks.
But here’s where it can get tricky: Animals that provide only emotional assistance aren’t covered by either federal laws or Arizona state laws. The primary legal difference is that emotional support animals aren’t trained to perform specific, potentially life-saving tasks. They simply improve their owners’ lives by offering companionship.
Rules for the Animals
Arizona service dog laws require that a service animal be harnessed, leashed or tethered, but with a caveat. The restriction cannot interfere with the animal's ability to perform its job. The handler/owner must have voice or signal control over the animal.
Businesses have the right to ask service animals and their owners to leave the premises if the dog should bark or snap at other patrons or if the animal is otherwise out of control. They must be housebroken. If the service animal should have a regrettable lapse in best behavior for some reason, the owner can be required to pay for any damage that results.
There’s a gray area here, too. Service animals can also be turned away if they “pose an undue burden” on a business or if they alter or change the nature of the services or goods the business provides. The “alter or change” rule is taken to mean behavior like barking in a movie theater or perhaps bringing a small horse into a high-brow restaurant.
Exception to the Usual Rules
Zoos are off the hook for complying with the ADA or AzDA, but only in areas where the service animals would likely come into direct contact with the zoo animals, which could potentially invite disaster. But zoos must provide a clean, comfortable place where service animals can wait for their owners to return from any areas the animals are banned from.
Arizona tweaked AzDA to address fraudulent misrepresentation of service animals in 2018. It’s now illegal to say that your dog or miniature horse is a service animal if it isn’t. It’s not a criminal offense, but owners and handlers can be subject to a civil fine of up to $250.
It can be admittedly difficult for owners who suffer from mental health disabilities to determine whether their animal is a service dog or an emotional support animal, which isn’t covered by the law. Someone attempting to enter a business with an emotional support animal might well believe that animal is covered under the law when, in fact, it isn’t.
Business owners are additionally at a disadvantage here because they’re limited by law as to what they can ask about the service animal’s purpose. Conditions like epilepsy aren’t as readily apparent to an untrained eye as afflictions like blindness or deafness, so a patron might fraudulently try to claim that he’s afflicted with such an invisible condition.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.