Service Animals

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 (ADA). Only dogs are classified as service animals, and they must perform a specific task that assists a person with a disability.

Service animals are permitted in all areas of Prince William Forest Park where visitors are allowed, including public buildings and camping areas. Service animals must be on a controlled lead not exceeding six (6) feet and must be picked up after. Emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals are not service animals as defined by NPS policy and ADA standards and are not permitted in areas where pets are not allowed.

What is the definition of a service animal?

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.

Why are service animals protected by law?

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.

Are park staff members allowed to ask me about my service animal?

Yes. Park staff can inquire about a service animal and are granted authority to verify the task(s) performed by an animal. This may be done in order to determine if it is a valid service animal that can be permitted in areas of the park that are otherwise restricted to pets. Documentation of the person's disability or the animal's training is not required as part of the verification process. National Park Service law enforcement agents are authorized to ask additional questions when necessary.

Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals?

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 relating to a disability. Therefore, a park can treat an emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animal as a pet in accordance with its pet policy.

Can I still bring my pet to the park?

Yes. Prince William Forest Park is pet friendly and welcomes visitors to bring their pets as part of their visit. Pets are not permitted inside federal buildings including the Visitor Center and Cabin Camp areas and must be kept on a secure lead at all time. Please review the park's pets policy prior to your visit for a safe and enjoyable experience.

What do I do if I think I've been discriminated against?

All policies and laws outlined by the NPS and Prince William Forest Park are for the safety and equality of park visitors and staff, as well as for the preservation of park resources. If you feel that you have been discriminated against while visiting Prince William Forest Park, please visit the National Park Service's EEO Complaint Guidance page for resources and instructions on how to file a formal complaint. You may also report any incident where you feel uncomfortable, threatened, or harassed to any park staff member or by calling Law Enforcement Dispatch at 1-866-677-6677.

Last updated: July 30, 2021

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