It is Halloween season, or will be soon, so I thought I’d talk a little about some seasonal issues and service dogs. Some of this even applies to pet dogs, as well.
The ADA does not specifically mention service dogs and haunted houses, and legally you could probably take your service dog to one if you wanted. They might give you a hard time and not want to let your dog in (which actually makes sense because it isn’t a good idea at all to take a service dog to a haunted house), but legally, you may have the right to take your dog. The Dept of Justice has not said anything addressing this specific issue.
That said, it would be a very bad idea to take a service dog to a haunted house. People often find them frightening and we know it is all pretend. A dog has no way of knowing the threats are not real, that no one is really attacking anyone or going to hurt anyone, or that the people screaming are having fun even if they are scared at the same time. At best, you would be confusing your dog and causing him significant stress. At worst, he would feel he needed to protect himself or protect you and bite someone he thought was a threat. It would be unfair to a dog to put him in that position.
Halloween stores can be good places for training dogs in really distracting environments full of things they’ve never seen before. They can also be really stressful for dogs. I would only take a dog that has been really well-socialized and demonstrated the ability to handle stressful, distracting environments. If your dog has never seen someone in a costume before, a Halloween store would not be a good place to start. If you’re not sure what signs of stress look like in your dog, don’t go someplace that might be very stressful. If you do go, make sure you are prepared to leave right away if your dog shows any signs of stress. Let your dog decide how quickly to approach displays and let him watch things that suddenly more or pop up from a distance first.
Note that the ADA does give you the right to take a service dog to a Halloween store. You just shouldn’t do it unless you feel sure your dog is ready for it.
Costume Parties and Trick or Treat
Like with Halloween stores, if your dog has never seen someone in a costume, a costume party full of people in weird outfits would be too much to start with. Start small. And don’t take your dog trick or treating if he’s never seen people in costumes before, either.