During the 2013 legislative session, the Minnesota legislature amended the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) to broaden the rights of individuals who use service animals in public establishments under the MHRA and to ensure that the MHRA was consistent with federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The amended law goes into effect August 1, 2013.
Can a business ask a person with a disability to remove his service animal?
A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless:
- the service animal is out of control and the animal's owner does not take effective action to control the service animal (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or
- the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
In these limited instances, the business should give the person with the disability the option to obtain goods and services without having the animal on the premises.
Can a business that serves food deny entrance to an individual with a service animal?
No. Businesses that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises. A business is not required to provide care or food for a service animal or to provide a special location for the animal to relieve itself.
Can a service animal accompany people with disabilities in every public space?
Local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.
For example, in a hospital it would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from a patient room, a clinic, a cafeteria or an examination room. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal's presence may compromise a sterile environment.
Can individuals with disabilities who use a service animal be charged extra fees?
No, people with disabilities who use service animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons, or treated less favorably than other patrons. A business may require a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets; however, the business must waive the charge for service animals.
However, if a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal. Further, hotel staff doesn't need to provide care or food for a service animal.
Do service animals always have to be on a leash?
No. While service animals are generally harnessed, leashed or tethered, the law recognizes that in certain instances those devices might interfere with the service animal's work or that the individual's disability prevents using these devices. Owners of service animals should however be able to maintain control of their service animal through voice, signal or other effective controls.
Can allergies or fear of dogs provide a valid reason to refuse service to a person who uses a service animal?
No. Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, the business must attempt to accommodate both individuals by assigning them to different rooms in the facility or different locations within the room.