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Service animals in labs

Service animals in labs

The University of Maryland is committed to promoting full participation and equal access to university programs and activities for individuals with disabilities, and to complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. Pursuant to these commitments, service animals are permitted on campus for persons with disabilities.

  • Service Animal: A service animal is a guide dog or signal dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. A service animal meeting this definition is not required to be licensed or certified by a state or local government or animal training program. Service animals are not required to be registered with Accessibility and Disability Service (ADS).

  • Emotional Support/Comfort Animal: An animal that provides comfort, reassurance, social interaction and other emotional benefits. The animal does not have to be trained to provide comfort. An emotional support/comfort animal is not considered a service animal. Students wishing to have an emotional support animal on campus must go through an accommodation process with ADS.

  • Service Animals in Training: Individuals with disabilities and service animal trainers who are accompanied by an animal being trained or raised as a service animal have the same right as individuals without disabilities to the full and free use of the roads, sidewalks, public buildings and public space. Under MD law, service animals in training can be excluded if admitting the animal would create a clear danger of a disturbance or physical harm to an individual in the place. 2017: MD Human Services Code § 7-705 (a)(4)

As part of this commitment, policies and procedures will ensure that persons with disabilities are not subjected to discrimination or denied full and equal access to programs offered by the university based on their disability.

All students with disabilities are encouraged to access the accommodations available through the ADS office. Students who require a service animal are not required to contact ADS, as the regulations do not require an accommodation process to have a service animal on campus. However, in the case of lab classes, it may be necessary for the student with the disability to coordinate with ADS, the Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability & Risk (ESSR) and the instructor of record for the course in order to ensure the health and safety of both the individual with the disability and the service animal.

Service animals and handlers

Service animals are allowed to accompany their handlers at all times and everywhere on campus, except in areas where inherent health, environmental or safety hazards require additional evaluation. Service animals may be allowed in these areas after a determination has been made that the use of the animal does not pose a safety risk. These determinations must be made on a case-by-case basis.

The following guidance is provided as an overview for these cases and is intended for university facilities in field/farm environments and where hazardous materials such as chemicals, biological materials, radioactive materials are used, handled or stored, where work with animals is present, and/or where hazardous equipment and hazardous operations are occurring and individuals who are service animal handlers utilizing these areas. This includes laboratories, studios, makerspaces, workshops, machine shops and shared support facilities.

The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag or specific harness. The handler is also not required to carry a specific identification card for the service animal.

When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed:

  1. "Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?" and

  2. "What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?" Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Classroom hazards

Faculty who oversee courses that have inherent hazardous materials or processes present are strongly encouraged to add the following wording to their course information:

Due to the nature of this class, any student with a disability who has a service animal needs to coordinate with the instructor, ADS and the Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability & Risk (ESSR) in order to ensure the safety of the animal as early as possible. Students are strongly encouraged to connect with ADS once registered for the class, and no later than before the semester begins in order to ensure all necessary precautions are taken prior to the first day of the lab.

The student will need to work with ADS and the Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability & Risk (ESSR) to develop a plan in order to ensure the safety of the service animal and other individuals within the area while the individual is participating or working within a hazardous environment as defined above. The plan will include emergency response measures, PPE selection, and other control measures, as necessary.

Faculty who have safety concerns can reach out to ESSR via

Factors that will be considered to ensure the service animal and classmates are safe:

Factors for service animal handler to consider in order to ensure safety in the class:

Denying access

Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access to people using service animals. If it is possible, separate the person with the allergy or other animal aversions from the person with a service animal. Individuals with allergies to dogs should work through the interactive process with ADS to determine appropriate accommodations to address the issue.

Individuals requiring a service animal should take these factors into consideration when making decisions about their animal. Individuals who require the use of a service animal in hazardous environments assume responsibility for all risks involved in the use of their service animal in lab areas, including the risk of exposure to hazardous materials and objects to their service animal.

Requirements of handlers

The handler must be in full control of the service animal at all times through effective controls such as leash, voice commands or other signals.

Service animals whose behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others in the university community may be excluded from campus, regardless of training or certification. Dangerous behavior should be reported to the ADA Coordinator and the University of Maryland Police Department.

The handler of a service animal that is not housebroken or that is unruly or disruptive (e.g., barking, running around loose, nipping, bringing attention to itself, or otherwise not under control) may be asked to remove the animal from campus or from university facilities. If improper behavior happens repeatedly, the handler may be required to take significant steps to mitigate the behavior before bringing the animal back to campus or into any university facility. Mitigation may include muzzling a barking animal, obtaining refresher training for both the animal and the handler, or other appropriate measures.

The handler of the service animal is solely responsible for any damage to persons or property caused by the animal. The handler is responsible for designating an alternative caregiver for the service animal in case of an emergency.

A service animal can be excluded or asked to leave the room if the behaviors pose significant interference with activities that are unrelated to the job or task that the service animal is performing, or if the presence of the animal will fundamentally alter the nature of the learning outcome.


If a faculty member is concerned that an accommodation fundamentally alters an essential requirement or course objective of a course or academic program, please contact Accessibility and Disability Service. The University of Maryland Disability & Accessibility Policy and Procedures provides further guidance on Academic Objections.

Any additional compliance questions may be directed to the ADA/504 coordinator.

10 dos and don'ts for behavior around a service dog team

  • DO speak to the owner/handler rather than the dog
  • DON'T touch the dog without asking permission first
  • DO keep pet dogs a distance away from a working dog
  • DON'T offer food to a service dog
  • DO treat the owner/handler with sensitivity and respect
  • DON'T assume a napping service dog is off duty
  • DO inform the handler if a service dog approaches you
  • DON'T do anything to distract the dog from its job
  • DO ask before acting if there are ways you can assist
  • DONʼT assume that the person does not have a disability just because you can’t see one