Health Care Facilities

Health care facilities are covered by a federal law called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and generally must not deny access to people working with service animals. Visit our Public Access page for more general information about service animals and the ADA. Also, some states and municipalities have laws that provide more protection than the ADA for people with service animals.

Health care facilities include places like hospitals, clinics, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, nursing homes, laboratories, kidney dialysis and blood plasma centers, imaging services and emergency transport services. Facilities and service providers that are owned, operated, or funded by the federal government (such as Veterans Affairs facilities and programs) have similar responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Check out this VA resource about service animals at VA facilities and read the VA regulation on animals in the Federal Register for more detail.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no evidence suggests that dogs pose a more significant risk of transmitting infection than people. Therefore, patients, visitors, instructors, volunteers, students, employees, and others with service animals are permitted in all areas of the facility unless an individual's situation or a particular dog poses greater risk that cannot be mitigated through reasonable measures.

Generally, if health-care personnel, visitors, and patients are permitted to enter care areas (e.g., inpatient rooms, some ICUs, and public areas) without taking additional precautions to prevent transmission of infectious agents (e.g., donning gloves, gowns, or masks), a clean, healthy, well behaved service animal should be allowed access with its handler. Similarly, if immunocompromised patients are able to receive visitors without using protective garments or equipment, an exclusion of service animals from this area would not be justified. Veterinary certificates and vaccination records cannot be required before allowing access unless there is reason to believe that the animal is not in good health.

When a decision must be made regarding a dog's access to a restricted area of the health care facility, the entire situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Health-care personnel should consider the nature of the risk (including duration and severity); the probability that injury will occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures will mitigate the risk. The person with a service animal should contribute to this assessment.

Service animals should be allowed to ride in ambulances with their handlers unless the ambulance is too crowded or the dog’s presence would interfere with the emergency medical staff’s ability to treat the patient. IN that case, the staff should make other arrangements to transport the dog. Health care personnel are generally not responsible for the care and supervision of a service animal. In cases where a patient is confined to bed in a hospital for a period of time, a family member, friend, or other person may assume the responsibility of taking the dog out several times a day for exercise and elimination. In emergency situations, however, responders may temporarily need to provide immediate care and supervision for the dog if the patient is unable to do so.

Read a Self-Evaluation Checklist for Health Care Facilities and Service Providers

Or learn how to accommodate service animals in a Public health emergency or disaster.

For more information about service animals and the ADA, check out the Department of Justice’s Requirements and frequently asked questions. If you are looking for tips on what to do when you encounter a guide dog team, take a look at this etiquette sheet.