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New Law Helps Ensure Access to Public Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities and their Service Animals

MDCR to Register Service Animals Beginning Monday, Jan. 18

January 13, 2016

Lansing − On Monday, Jan. 18, a new law goes into effect to help ensure that people with disabilities who use service animals won’t be refused entry to businesses, schools, hospitals and other public accommodations in Michigan.

The law, Service Animals for Persons with Disabilities, clarifies the rules regarding the use of service animals and updates the terminology related to service animals to bring it in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law also will make it easier for establishments to determine who is legally entitled to an accommodation. The four-bill package, sponsored by Sen. David Knezek, Sen. Margaret O'Brien, Rep. Tom Barrett and Rep. David Rutledge, was signed into law by Governor Snyder on October 20, 2015.

“This law is an important step in protecting the right of every person who uses a service animal in Michigan to enjoy the same public facilities as anyone else,” said Lt. Governor Brian Calley. “Veterans with PTSD and others with hidden disabilities should not have to face closed doors and skeptical questions. This law will make access easier and less stressful for individuals who rely on their service animals every day.”

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) is the state agency responsible for registering service animals and taking complaints related to violations of the ADA, the federal law that protects the use of trained service animals for persons with disabilities.

The law provides an opportunity for persons who use trained service animals to register their animals with the State of Michigan. Once an individual has completed the registration process, they will receive an official State of Michigan Registered Service Animal patch that can be affixed to the animal’s vest or harness. They will also receive a State of Michigan Registered Service Animal identification card with the name and photo of the handler and the name and description of the service animal. Registration is voluntary and there is no charge for the service.

“Registering your service animal is voluntary – your rights are protected by federal law regardless of whether or not you register with the State of Michigan,” said Agustin Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “But if you choose to register, this law provides some new tools to help make sure that business owners, employees and other patrons understand that you and your service animal have every right to be accommodated.”

To begin the process of registering a service animal, go to Flyers and posters are available for download, some with information for service animal owners and others designed for businesses to print and display to help the public and their employees understand the laws covering service animals.

MDCR uses its existing complaint system to take reports of problems encountered by anyone with a disability using a service animal. The new law increases the penalty for attempting to impersonate an individual with a service animal to up to $500. The department may refer criminal violations to law enforcement agencies for investigation. 

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and works to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law.  For more information on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to