Can you bring a service animal, like a dog, into a nursing home or rehab center? Legally, yes, you are allowed if the dog is a working service animal and not just a pet.
The legal basis for allowing service dogs in rehab centers and nursing home facilities is outlined below.
Americans with Disabilities Act and Service Dogs in Nursing Homes
A service dog is a type of assistance dog specifically trained to help people who have disabilities, such as visual impairment, hearing impairments, mental illnesses (such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)), seizure disorder, mobility impairment, and diabetes. Because service dogs assist patients with documented disabilities, the service dog issue legally falls under the jurisdiction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Under the ADA, a nursing home cannot ban all service dogs from a facility. Instead, a medical professional must come to a clinical conclusion that this individual service dog poses a significant health risk to residents and therefore, should be excluded from the facility. This is rarely done. More commonly, the front desk person at the nursing home says “no dogs allowed” and refuses entry. This may be a violation of the American with Disabilities Act.
Lawsuits Involving a Nursing Home Refusing to Allow a Service Dog in the Facility
Aggrieved residents with properly vetted service animals may file an ADA Complaint against the facility for not allowing a service dog into the nursing home. Although the relief is usually monetary (money damages), the impact of the case may create change in how the nursing home deals with service animals in the future.
Historically, most of these cases settle. A recent lawsuit involved a rehab patient who had a seizure disorder. Life Care Centers of America did not allow her service dog on the facility grounds, citing a ‘no dog’ rule. Luckily, the patient did not suffer a seizure or require her service dog. However, she successfully sued the nursing home through an ADA Complaint and settled her case for $12,000.
The ADA service dog lawsuit seems to have created a larger change for the good. As reported in McKnight’s Long Term Care News:
Life Care Center of Hickory Woods will pay $12,000 to settle the complaint, as well as adopt a written service animal policy, train employees on that policy and post a sign stating that service animals are welcome. Life Care Centers nationally will distribute and maintain a new service animal policy across its facilities that will agree to make reasonable modifications to permit and welcome service animals into its facilities, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Tips for Making Sure your Service Dog Gets Inside the Facility Without a Problem
- Although not legally required under the ADA, it may help if your dog is wearing a service animal vest and is properly harnessed.
- Have any medical paperwork substantiating your diagnosis which requires the service dog.
- Have any paperwork related to the service dog available. However, national certifications are not required as there are no national certification registries for Service Dogs.
- If your animal is refused entry, demand to speak with a supervisor and get the specific legal and clinical reasoning for the denial.
When are Dogs Not Allowed Inside Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities?
Dogs are usually not allowed in if they are merely pets or ‘comfort animals.’ A dog is only permitted inside a non-pet facility if it is a service animal.
Dogs and Animals in a Pet Friendly Nursing Home
If looking for a pet friendly nursing home near you, use Medicare’s nursing home compare tool for a list of facilities within 25 miles of your home. Then call each facility and ask if they are pet friendly.
If you have a legal question involving an incident inside a facility, contact our nursing home abuse attorneys today for a free consultation by typing your inquiry below.
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