“Support animals” is a broad term defining animals with a specific purpose. There are three types:

  1. Service animals
  2. Emotional support animals
  3. Therapy animals

Under Wisconsin law any animal can fall into one of these groups but certain rules apply.

Service Animals

Under Wisconsin law, a service animal is any animal trained to perform an individualized task in relation to a person’s disability. This is different from the Americans with Disabilities Act definition, which is limited to dogs and miniature ponies. They do not require any documentation or certification.


  1. A dog is trained to alert a bystander if its owner has a seizure. The dog performs a task of keeping the person safe and attracting help.
  2. An animal will fetch and retrieve items dropped on the floor for a person unable to reach to the ground.
  3. A dog is trained to alert its owner with a hearing impairment when a doorbell or phone rings

Some service animals are still learning and accompanied by a trainer. The trainer may be asked to provide documentation from the training school when the animal is in public. A person with a disability who is training or who benefits from the work of a service animal does not have to provide this documentation.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals provide comfort and support to an individual based on their needs. Emotional support animals are not allowed in public places, they are only allowed in an individual’s residence, on public transportation, and on airplanes.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs, the third group of support animals, provide general comfort and support to a variety of people. They are allowed in public places with the property owner’s permission, and must adhere to the same standards as a service dog. Therapy dogs are often requested to be certified through a therapy dog organization. This certification is not required.

Differences between Service Animals & Support Animals

When determining the difference between a service animal and emotional support animal it is important to look at tasks performed. If that task is general then the animal falls under the emotional support category.

What questions can be asked of an individual with a service animal?

There are only two questions that can be asked of a person with a service animal.

  1. Is the animal a service animal needed because of disability?
  2. What is the animal trained to do?

Any questions beyond these may constitute a violation. It is important to focus on the second question in determining which category an animal falls into.

Property Owners & Support Animals

Under certain circumstances a property owner can ask that an animal be removed.  The first instance is when appropriate answers to the above questions are not provided.The second instance is when any of the following conditions apply:

  1. The animal is not under the handler’s control. This usually means that the animal is on a leash, but the animal may still be under the handler’s control went off a leash.
  2. The animal does not have vaccinations or registration
  3. The animal poses a public safety or health hazard. For instance, if the animal is not housebroken or has an accident indoors which the owner does not clean up.

If an individual is asked to remove a service animal they must be offered the ability to participate without the animal and accommodations should be made.