In October 2018, the National Park Service (NPS) issued a new system-wide policy 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 (DOJ) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Although some of the parks previously had a similar service animal policy in place, this new policy applies to all parks.
Under the new policy, a service animal is defined as 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.
Service animals-in-training are not considered service animals.
Although the DOJ definition of a service animal only refers to a dog, the NPS must make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by a person with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.
The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. Some examples of work or tasks performed may include:
- Assist individuals who are blind with navigation
- Alert individuals who are deaf to the presence of people or sounds
- Pull a wheelchair
- Alert individuals to the presence of allergens or the onset of a seizure
- Retrieve items
- Provide physical support and assistance to individuals with mobility disabilities
- Help individuals manage psychiatric and neurological disabilities
The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute as work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.
Emotional support animals, therapy animals and companion animals are not recognized as service animals by the NPS.
All animals that are not classified as service animals are considered pets, and are subject to the pet regulations of the park. Service animals are allowed access to all areas of the park, including lodgings, restaurants, trails and attractions.
It should also be noted that although some organizations sell “service animal registration” documents on-line, these documents do not convey any rights under the ADA; and the DOJ and the NPS does not recognize them as proof that a dog is a service animal.
For more information on the ADA (and now the NPS) definition of a service animal, visit www.ada.gov.