Service Animal: A service animal is a trained animal that can assist with a physical or emotional issue by performing specific tasks for the individual with a disability. Under the ADA and MHRA, a service animal is defined as a dog or miniature horse.
Emotional Support Animal: An emotional support may provide support, companionship, or comfort to an individual, but it is not specifically trained to perform tasks to assist an individual with a disability.
Place of Public Accommodation: The Minnesota Human Rights Act defines a Place of Public Accommodation as “a business, accommodation, refreshment, entertainment, recreation, or transportation facility of any kind, whether licensed or not, whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations are extended, offered, sold, or otherwise made available to the public.” (Minn. Stat. 363A.03 Subd. 34)
Access by service animals to places of public accommodation are generally protected under federal (Americans with Disabilities Act) and state (Minnesota Human Rights Act) laws.
This includes service animals trained to assist with disabilities that may be invisible, as well as more commonly thought of services like a guide animal for an individual who is blind.
Under state law, service animals in training have access to public accommodations. (Minn. Stat. 256C.02)
Emotional support animals do not have the same broad legal protections service animals do.
For public accommodations generally, like a movie theater or store, the establishment could allow an emotional support animal and may wish to as part of providing a welcoming environment for individuals with disabilities.
For housing and employment contexts, emotional support animals have additional possible protections. This document is limited to public accommodations.
There is one exception to this general rule about public accommodations for emotional support animals, when people fly on planes the federal Air Carrier Access Act provides specific allowances for access by emotional support animals.
Misrepresentation of a non-Service Animal as a Service Animal is illegal.
Effective August 1, 2018, Minnesota law now makes it illegal for someone who knows that the animal they brought into a store, restaurant, or other place of public accommodation, is not a service animal if they misrepresent it as being a service animal. A person may not, directly or indirectly through statements or conduct, intentionally misrepresent an animal in that person's possession as a service animal in any place of public accommodation to obtain any rights or privileges available to a person who qualifies for a service animal under state or federal law knowing that the person is not entitled to those rights or privileges.