Service Animals in National Parks

Woman and her service dog take in the view of Alaskan river and woods
Service dogs are legally permitted anywhere that visitors can go, such as this overlook along the Copper River in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve in Alaska.

NPS/Judy Kesler

In October 2018, the National Park Service (NPS) issued a policy memorandum regarding the use of service animals by persons with disabilities in national parks. The revised policy aligns the NPS policy with the standards established by the Department of Justice and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Only dogs are classified as service animals, and they must perform a specific task that assists a person with a disability. Emotional support or comfort animals are not service animals.

Additional information is provided below.

NPS policy defines a service animal as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The tasks performed by the animal must be directly related to the person’s disability.
Individuals with disabilities rely on their service animals to remain independent and safe. Service animals are not pets. For many individuals with disabilities, separation from a service animal has the same effect as having a wheelchair or communication device taken away. For others, separation from a service animal can put the individual in danger.
Service dogs are legally permitted anywhere that visitors can go. They must be allowed wherever visitors are allowed.
No. Provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship does not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of what is defined as a service animal in the NPS policy. Emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals can be any animal, not just a dog. The presence of these animals provides a calming effect for many people, but they do not qualify as service animals because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task. Therefore, a park can treat an emotional support animal as a pet in accordance with its pet policy.
A service dog must be trained to perform a specific task related to the disability of its handler.
Service dogs are allowed to go into areas where pets are prohibited because service dogs are not considered pets and consequently are not regulated as pets.
Many national parks allow dogs that are on leash and under control in designated areas such as trails, campgrounds, and other public areas. It’s always best to check with the park you plan to visit to learn where pets are and are not allowed. For more information about pets in parks, visit the Pets site.

Last updated: November 9, 2018