Attorney General Brnovich Resolves Civil Rights Case Involving Service Animal

TUCSON - Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced that his office (AGO) resolved an Arizonans with Disabilities Act (AzDA) complaint against a Tucson establishment that allegedly refused to serve a veteran because his service animal accompanied him.

In March 2020, the veteran filed a complaint of discrimination with the AGO against P’Nosh Deli and Catering Company/Old Father Inn for refusing to serve him and ordering him to leave because of his disability and service dog.

To resolve the case, the establishment agreed to pay monetary damages to the veteran, civil penalties, and provide a donation to an entity that trains service animals for veterans. In addition, the establishment will implement anti-discrimination policies consistent with AzDA and undergo service animal training.

“The Arizonans with Disabilities Act protects individuals with disabilities from unequal treatment and denial of services,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “No person, especially our heroic veterans, should be barred from enjoying our great Arizona establishments because he or she needs a service animal.”

Copy of Conciliation Agreement here.


What is a service animal?

Under the AzDA, service animals are dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Miniature horses also can be service animals.

There are other types of assistance animals, such as emotional support animals and companion animals. Assistance animals that do not meet the definition of a service animal are not service animals under AzDA. For example, cats and other domesticated animals are not service animals under AzDA. Similarly, dogs that are not individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability are not service animals under AzDA.

I have a 'No Pets' policy. Can I exclude service animals?

Service animals are not pets; they are specially-trained to assist individuals with disabilities. Discrimination under the AzDA can include a failure to make reasonable modifications to an establishment’s policies, practices, or procedures if the modifications are necessary to provide goods and services to an individual with a disability. For example, an establishment may be required to provide a reasonable modification to a no pet policy if an individual has a disability-related need for a service animal.

If someone tries to enter my establishment with a dog, what questions can I ask?

If a person’s disability-related need for a service animal is obvious, there is no need to ask any questions. For example, if an individual has a Seeing Eye dog or is using a miniature horse for mobility assistance, it is inappropriate to ask additional questions.

When the need for a service animal is not obvious, staff may ask two questions:

(1) Is the dog/miniature horse a service animal required because of a disability?

(2) What work or task has the dog/miniature horse been trained to perform?

Establishment owners/operators must remember that some disability-related needs for a service animal may not be evident. For example, there are dogs that are trained to alert a handler to an oncoming stroke, a change in a diabetic person’s blood chemistry, and to assist a handler with post-traumatic stress disorder. In all of these examples, both the individual’s disability and the disability-related need for a service animal likely will not be obvious.

Can I ask for proof of service animal certification?

There is no official certification requirement for service animals. A service animal can be individually trained to assist someone with a disability and not be certified.

If a dog is not wearing a service animal vest, can it still be a service animal?

Although many service animals wear vests with a service animal patch, there is no official requirement that service animals have any particular vest, harness, lease, or collar.

Although not required to wear specialized items, service animals must be under the control of their handler and harnessed, leashed, or tethered unless the handler’s disability prevents them from using these devices or the devices interfere with the service animal’s performance of its tasks.

AGO Civil Rights Division

The mission of the Civil Rights Division is to enforce civil rights laws, increase public awareness of civil rights, provide dispute resolution services, and offer community services throughout the state.

In Fiscal Year 2020, the Civil Rights Division investigated 2,271 allegations of discrimination and obtained more than $1 million in monetary relief for aggrieved parties. The Civil Rights Division also obtained agreements to proactively alleviate future civil rights violations and for future monitoring.

If you believe you’ve been discriminated against in housing, employment, public accommodations, or voting, please contact our office at (602)542-5263 or submit an intake questionnaire here .

Download a free AGO’s Civil Rights pamphlet in English and Spanish.