New York City and State Bar Associations Release Service Animal Guide

The New York City Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association today jointly released a guide intended to clarify the legal rights and obligations of individuals and institutions in connection with the use of service animals in the state. 

People with disabilities may rely on dogs and other service animals to assist them at their homes and workplaces, schools, retail stores, restaurants, theaters and when traveling. However, there has been confusion in connection with the federal, state and local laws regarding the use of service animals and those who must accommodate them.

The “Guide to the Use of Service Animals in New York State” recognizes that various federal, state and local laws address service animal use in differing manners. For example, depending on the context and the location, such as in housing, transportation, employment or places of public accommodation, in or outside of New York City, the definition of “service animal” may differ; it may be limited to a dog or extended to other animals, or it may not be limited at all.

The Guide is intended to clarify the existing laws for: individuals with disabilities who use service animals; those who train service animals; and those who must accommodate them, such as employers, landlords, merchants and places of public accommodation. It also offers guidance to lawmakers, government officials, attorneys and the courts. 

The Guide provides a review of rights and remedies under comparative federal, state and local human rights laws. Its extensive endnotes likely will be cited by attorneys and judges. 

“The City Bar is pleased to partner with the State Bar to help clarify the laws pertaining to service animals in New York State,” said City Bar President John S. Kiernan. “This Guide should help not only those who depend on the animals, but also the institutions that are obligated to comply with a complex array of laws to accommodate them.” 

“Our communities are enriched when individuals with disabilities are able to participate actively in them. For many New Yorkers, service animals help make this possible,” said New York State Bar Association President Claire P. Gutekunst. “We hope the Guide will facilitate use of service animals in New York and create greater public understanding of the important role of these remarkable animals.”

The City and State Bar Associations have posted the Guide on their respective websites at and and they encourage the downloading, copying and distribution of the Guide throughout the state. Both associations expect to hold programs on how to apply the information in the Guide to situations of particular interest.

The Bar Associations anticipate that better and more widespread understanding of laws regarding use of service animals by people with disabilities in New York State will promote respect for both the laws and the people whose rights are recognized by those laws, and will facilitate accommodation of people with disabilities.

About the New York City Bar Association
The New York City Bar Association (, since its founding in 1870, has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the profession, promoting reform of the law and providing service to the profession and the public.  The Association continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.

About the New York State Bar Association
The 72,000-member New York State Bar Association ( the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, its objectives are to cultivate the science of jurisprudence, promote reform in the law, facilitate the administration of justice, and elevate the standards of integrity, honor, professional skill and courtesy in the legal profession.