The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Wisconsin law define a service animal as a dog or other animal that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Examples include, but are not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind, alerting individuals with a hearing loss to sounds, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, pulling a wheelchair, or retrieving dropped items. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a service animal has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs or other animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals. 

Service animals should be allowed to accompany their handler in all areas on campus, unless the animal’s presence would jeopardize safe operations or fundamentally alter the program, service, or activity in that location.  Service animals are not required to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.  When it is not obvious whether a dog is a service animal, UWM employees may only ask two questions:

(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and
(2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.

Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Service animals must always be under the control of the handler. This means that a service animal may not wander and must always be on a harness or leash or tether of some sort while in public places, unless the individual’s disability prevents using these devices or these devices interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of tasks. In those cases, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. 

Additional information about service animals, including Frequently Asked Questions, is available from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Service Animals in Training

Wisconsin law allows service animals-in-training to be admitted to facilities open to the public, unless the presence of the animal in training would jeopardize the safe operation or fundamentally alter the program, service or activity in the location. Service animals-in-training are not permitted, for example, in classrooms because these areas are not open to the public.

Service animals-in-training are not protected by the ADA, are not considered a reasonable accommodation for a disability, and are subject to restrictions not placed on fully trained service animals.  For example, service animals in training must wear a harness or leash and a special cape and remain under the control of the trainer at all times. The handler may be asked to produce certification or documentation of a training school. However, a handler with a disability may not be asked for documentation of their own disability or certification or documentation that the animal is trained or is being trained.