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This post is part of our series on service animals. MOD often hears from people with disabilities who have paid a fee in order to obtain a “certification” or “registration” for their service animal or emotional support animal in order to get permission to have the animal in housing or other places that do not allow animals.  We thought it would be helpful to clarify the status of these so-called certifying bodies and explain what would be considered sufficient documentation that an animal is needed because of a disability.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the corresponding Massachusetts law on service animals, Massachusetts General Law c. 272, § 98A, places of public accommodation, i.e. any place that is open to the public may not require any documentation, certification, registration, or license in order to permit a service animal. Emotional support animals do not have the right to go wherever the public is allowed to go.

In the housing scenario, residents with disabilities may request a modification to a “no pets” policy in order to keep a service animal or emotional support animal as a reasonable accommodation. Housing providers may require documentation that an animal is needed because of a disability in order to grant the accommodation.  A letter from a medical provider or other professional who has knowledge of the individual’s disability explaining that the animal is required due to a disability should be sufficient. No special certificate or license is required.

dog lying down

Service dogs are not required to wear any special apparel.

Many entities claim to offer “certification,” “registration,” or “licensure” of service animals and or emotional support animals for a fee, often on the internet.   These forms of documentation have no legal status, are not recognized by the ADA, the Department of Justice, or Massachusetts law as proof that an animal is a service animal or an emotional support animal, and are not required by law.  It is never necessary for a person with a disability to pay a fee for documentation of a service animal or emotional support animal.

Similarly, service animals are not required to wear a special vest, harness, or any other visible indication that they are service animals, although some individuals choose to use these products in order to make their animal more easily identifiable as a service animal.

We hope this post clarifies the issue and saves some people from unnecessary spending. Don’t miss an MOD blog post! Sign up for email alerts here.


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