Can you take a support animal to work with you?

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Once upon a time, the only support animals being used by the disabled were “seeing eye dogs.” Today, however, support animals are used to assist everyone from diabetics and those with seizure disorders to people suffering from mental and emotional conditions like anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you have a support animal, does your employer have to allow you to bring the animal to the workplace?

Maybe. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) generally requires your employer to make reasonable accommodations for your disabilities — as long as doing so doesn’t saddle your employer with an unnecessary hardship.

There are distinctions, however, between service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals are generally highly trained creatures (usually dogs) who perform specific functions for their owners. Emotional support animals, however, may be closer to companions. They may or may not be trained to do any tasks for their owners — and many of them are not dogs.

Broadly speaking, your employer has an obligation to at least consider your request for a reasonable accommodation involving a service animal or emotional support animal. Service animals may be more easily accepted because of their training (and pose less of a distraction to the other employees). However, that doesn’t mean that your emotional support animal is automatically excluded.

Reasonable accommodation requests can be highly fact-specific. The outcome of your request may depend on the nature of your disability, the type of animal you want to bring to work and whether or not that animal could be unduly disruptive. If you believe that your employer has unfairly denied a reasonable accommodation request, find out more about your rights.