In October 2018, the National Park Service (NPS) issued a policy memorandum regarding the use of service animals by persons with disabilities in national parks. The revised policy aligns the NPS policy with the standards established by the Department of Justice in 2010 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Only dogs are classified as service animals, and they must perform a specific task that assists a person with a disability. Emotional support or comfort animals are not service animals.
The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register. These requirements, or rules, clarified and refined issues that had arisen over the previous 20 years and contain new, and updated, requirements, such as those pertaining to service animals.
Since March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA. A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. National Park Service sites and facilities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go. Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal's presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition, i.e., dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Justice’s Revised ADA Regulations: Implementing Title II and Title III page.
Last updated: November 26, 2022