FAQ: Are service dogs allowed on publicly accessible preserves?

Requirements for visiting parks with a service dog or pet may vary, so be sure to check each park's regulations before you visit.

by American Trails Staff

Service dog in Redwood National Park; courtesy NPS

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

In National Parks, service animals are allowed in all facilities and on all trails unless an area has been closed by the superintendent to protect park resources. Certain areas may be closed to dogs based on wildlife activity and nesting. You would not want your dog interfering with—or being hurt by—wildlife.

Requirements for visiting parks with a service dog or pet may vary, so be sure to check each park's regulations before you visit.

Here's a few policies on pets in general:


National parks welcome pets in developed areas, on many trails and campgrounds, and in some lodging facilities. Pets must be restrained either on a leash not exceeding 6 feet in length, caged or crated at all times. Pets are not permitted in a public building, public transportation vehicle, or location designated as a swimming beach.

Pets are allowed in all national forests, but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times while in developed recreation areas and on interpretive trails. Most other areas within the National Forests do not require dogs to be on a leash, but they should be under control at all times. Pets are not permitted in swimming areas.

Dogs on a leash are allowed on most trails and campgrounds in areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In general, backcountry areas do not require dogs to be leashed. Before visiting public lands with pets, please check with the local BLM office to find out information about public land off-leash hiking policies.

Be prepared when visiting a park with a service dog or pet. Everyone wants to have a good time!

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Published October 25, 2012

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