Massachusetts law about service animals

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

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Best bet

Disability rights for users of assistance animals, Mass. Office on Disability.
Provides an outline of the definitions, laws, rights, responsibilities and "relevant processes for service animals and emotional support animals" in places of public accommodation, housing, transport and employment. Persons with disabilities have the right to be accompanied by a service animal wherever the person is allowed to go. Must be under the handler’s control at all times. In most cases this involves use of a harness or leash.  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.

Certification and registration

"Assistance animal owners in Massachusetts are not required to possess any certification or identification." However, "[a]ll dogs, whether pets or assistance animals, need to be registered with their town/city, but there is no official registry of assistance animals."

Massachusetts laws

Primary service animal law

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

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)
Helps 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. Implementation plan in Federal Register.

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

Assistance animals in housing, Mass. Office on Disability
This page will help people understand the rights and responsibilities associated with service animals and emotional support animals in different settings.

Discrimination based on disability: Reasonable accommodation, Mass. Legal Help, 2017.
"For example, if a landlord has a rule that tenants cannot have dogs, and you need a companion animal or a service animal, the landlord should waive the 'no pet' rule for you."

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, U.S. Dept. of Justice, 2020.
"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. Dept. 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. Sample letter of support for Emotional Assistance Animal.

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, U.S. 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, U.S. Dept. of Transportation.
Information about traveling with service animals on an airline, and forms that may be useful when traveling. The airlines are required to have the forms on their website in an easy to fill out format.

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. Accommodations for service animals in college housing and other campus activities.

Service animals & the law, MCLE, 2021.

Service animals under Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 12101 et seq. 53 ALR Fed 3d  Art. 1. Includes notes to relevant cases.

Contact   for Massachusetts law about service animals

Last updated: May 21, 2024

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