Massachusetts law about service animals

A compilation of laws, regulations, and web sources on the law of service, emotional support, and other assistance animals.

Table of Contents

Best bet

About service and assistance animals, Mass. Office on Disabilities.
Persons with disabilities have the right to be accompanied by a service animal wherever the person is allowed to go. In housing, persons with disabilities have a right to reasonable accommodations, including the right to keep an assistance animal.

An individual with a disability accompanied by a service animal may not be asked to provide documentation of a disability, to answer questions regarding his or her disability, or to have the service animal demonstrate its work.  Only when the individual’s disability is not obvious, staff may ask the following two questions to determine whether an animal is a service animal:

  1. Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What task or service is the animal trained to perform?

The law requires staff to take the individual at their word.

Massachusetts laws

Primary service animal law

  • MGL c.272, § 98A  Physically handicapped persons with dog guides; public places or conveyances

Other laws on service animals

Federal laws

40 U.S.C. § 3103 Admission of guide dogs or other service animals accompanying individuals with disabilities

42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

49 U.S.C. § 41705 Air carrier access act. Forbids discrimination in air travel on the basis of disability

PAWS Act P. L. 117-37 (Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members for Veterans Therapy Act) will help provide veterans with dog training from non-governmental 501(c)(3) organizations by expanding the eligibility for veterans to receive funding to purchase a dog and requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to implement a grant program for the purpose of pairing service dogs with eligible veterans. Organizations that receive grants must provide veterinary health insurance coverage, hardware, and travel expenses for each service dog and veteran participating in the program.

Federal regulations

14 CFR 382 Nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in air travel. Under this rule, (382.3) only dogs can be service animals, and emotional support animals are no longer permitted.

28 CFR 35.104 Service animal, defined. Definition is limited to dogs.

28 CFR 35.136 Service animals. Rules re: service animals. 28 CFR 35.136 (i) provides guidance on the use of miniature horses in state and local government services.

28 CFR 36.104 Service animal, Defined. definition is limited to dogs.

28 CFR 36.302 Modifications provides guidance on the use of miniature horses in public accommodations

Web sources

FAQs on service and assistance animals in housing, Michigan State University Animal Legal and Historical Center, 2021.
"An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a "reasonable accommodation" for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act." Provides an overview of assistance animals in housing.

File a civil rights complaint, Mass. Attorney General.
If you believe a company, business, organization has violated your rights, you can file a civil rights complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General's Office.

Frequently asked questions about service animals and the ADA, US Dept. of Justice, 2015.
"The Department of Justice continues to receive many questions about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to service animals....This publication provides guidance on the ADA's service animal provisions."

Guidance on assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Provides guidance on how to assess a tenant's request to have an animal as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act.

How a reasonable accommodation request can help in public housing, MassLegalHelp.
Addresses the issue of service and emotional support animals in public housing.

Massachusetts law on service dogs and emotional support animalsNolo.com.
Explains when and where service and emotional support animals are allowed.

Service animal resource hub, ADA National Network. 
Covers the basics, the workplace, traveling, living, and emotional support animals.

Service animals, US Dept. of Justice
ADA.gov explains what businesses and state/local governments must do to make sure that they do not discriminate against a member of the public with a disability who uses a service animal.

Service animals and emotional support animals: Where are they allowed and under what conditions?, ADA National Network

Print sources

College and university law manual, MCLE loose-leaf, § 5.4.5(c). Accommodations for service animals in college housing and other campus activities.

Service animals & the law, MCLE, 2021.

Contact

Online

Law library locations and phone numbers Library locations 
Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com
Last updated: April 8, 2022
Feedback