Photos of individuals with service dogs seated at restaurant tables have sparked outrage on social media. Many people felt it was inappropriate conduct and did not reflect well on service dog handlers. The proper place for a service dog is on a down-stay under the table. The law requires any service animal to be under the handlers control at all times, and etiquette dictates that they be as unobtrusive as possible. But now the law actually speaks to the specific issue, as well as further defining what a psychiatric service dog is.

The ADA has revised their website to address many common questions and concerns about service dogs, including the question of conduct at restaurant tables:

Q32. Are restaurants, bars, and other places that serve food or drink required to allow service animals to be seated on chairs or allow the animal to be fed at the table?

A. No.  Seating, food, and drink are provided for customer use only.  The ADA gives a person with a disability the right to be accompanied by his or her service animal, but covered entities are not required to allow an animal to sit or be fed at the table.

The ADA has previously specified the difference between an “emotional support dog” and a “service dog,” including a “psychiatric service dog.” The difference is that a legitimate service dog does actual tasks. Making a person “feel better” or “feel comfort” is not a task, and does not qualify a dog as a service animal. Read here:

Q3. Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?

A. No.  These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.  Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.  However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places.  You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

Q4. If someone’s dog calms them when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a service animal?

A. It depends. The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.

And something I particularly appreciate as a trainer, they address the many scam websites out there selling “service dog registration” for a fee:
“There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.”

People buying service dog “registration kits” and fake service dog vests online just so they can take their dog into a restaurant for fun is unfair to actual disabled individuals. Unless your dog is fully trained for public access and has rock solid obedience, as well as performs tasks to mitigate your disability, it should not be in public masquerading as a service dog. Service dogs are not required to carry any type of “certification” or identification, because there is no standard certification. Dogs may be trained at a school, or they may be owner-trained. You are not required to have your service animal professionally trained. Although many people do hire a trainer or purchase a fully-trained dog, we do not give out any sort of special licenses. There is no license for a service dog.

Read the full list of Q & A for Service and Assistance Animals on the website for the Americans with Disabilities Act