In the state of Colorado, service animals must be allowed into businesses, but not companion animals. So what's the difference?

Disability Law Colorado spells it out pretty clearly, yet confusion remains about what assistance animals are allowed into public businesses.

A service animal has been trained to perform a certain task or service for someone with a disability.

State law says companion animals, "help a person with disability alleviate one or more of their symptoms while in their home." These animals often lend emotional support.

The only two service animals allowed in Colorado businesses are dogs and miniature horses. A business can allow a companion or emotional support animal inside if they so choose, but it is not required to do so.

On occasion, I have seen what appeared to be a companion dog in the grocery store, though I couldn't be sure that it wasn't actually a true service animal. To date, I have not witnessed any miniature horses inside a store.

Restaurants, grocery stores, and retail stores are not required to admit companion animals, but they must accommodate true service animals. However, that doesn't give service animals a free pass. By law, they can be removed if they are acting aggressive or are being a nuisance.

If there is a question of legitimacy, a business has the right to ask two questions. (1) Is the dog required because of your disability? and (2) What task does it perform? The business can not legally ask what the person's disability is or ask to have the dog, or miniature horse, perform the task.

The bottom line is this. Not every animal who's human is disabled is considered a service animal by Colorado law.

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