Therapy Chickens and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Matthew Worley, Esq.

Upon hearing the term “service animal,” most people automatically envision guide dogs for the visually impaired.  Dogs have also been trained to help individuals prone to seizures.  But are other types of animals permitted to be used as service animals?  Our municipal clients had to answer this question recently.

For instance, many cities have local ordinances preventing residents from keeping or raising chickens on property within the city.  However, are those individuals permitted to keep chickens on their property if they are being used as “therapy” chickens?  For example, to provide therapeutic benefits for special needs children.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) governs the use of service animals for disabled individuals.  Under the ADA and its corresponding regulations, a “service animal” is defined as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”  The regulations specifically state that other species of animals are not service animals for purpose of the ADA.

The only exception to the “dogs only” rule of the ADA is, surprisingly, miniature horses.  The ADA requires that reasonable accommodations must be made to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability, as long as it has been individually trained to perform tasks for that person.  The use of these miniature horses is more restrictive than guide dogs, however.  In order to determine if reasonable accommodations can be made, the regulations provide several factors including the size of the horse, the handler’s control over the horse, and whether the horse is housebroken.

So, according to the text of the ADA Regulations, it is unlikely that “therapy chickens” would be protected under the ADA as service animals.  While chickens arguably may provide a benefit to those with special needs or a disability, a local city ordinance prohibiting would likely be controlling.

If you have questions about the ADA or other legal issues, contact the experienced team of legal professionals at Fausone Bohn, LLP, at (248) 380-0000 or online at

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