Service Animals at Lincoln Park Zoo

Service Animals at Lincoln Park Zoo

Service animals are welcome at Lincoln Park Zoo. However, this zoo is home to around 175 species, some of which have natural predatory instincts. To ensure the safety of our guests, service animals, and the zoo’s resident animals, all guests must adhere to our service animal policy. This policy is in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as national, state, and local ordinances and applicable laws.

Service Animals Allowed

The zoo allows service animals and service animals-in-training on grounds with a handler/trainer, if they meet the requirements outlined in the Illinois Service Animal Access Act, Illinois Guide Dog Access Act, and Illinois White Cane Law.

According to the ADA, a service animal is defined specifically as “a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.” Pets, therapy animals, and emotional support animals are not considered service animals under the ADA and therefore are not permitted within the gated perimeter of Lincoln Park Zoo.

The ADA also has a provision about miniature horses being recognized under the law as animals that can perform tasks for people with disabilities. Miniature horses are not permitted within Lincoln Park Zoo because of their natural relationships with predators, which could cause zoo carnivores to become agitated. Additionally, the presence of miniature horses poses  disease transmission concerns.

Guidelines & Policies

  • Service animals must be on duty and serving in their official capacity, under the control of a handler, at all times.
  • The owner of the service animal is solely responsible for its care and supervision.
  • Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work, or the individual’s disability prevents the use of these devices.

Upon Arrival

We recommend that guests with service animals start their zoo visit at Searle Visitor Center, where staff are trained to facilitate safe, fun visits.

Allowed Areas

Service animals may accompany guests in all outdoor areas and in most indoor public areas. Service animals may also accompany guests into all dining and retail areas.

Restricted Areas

Service animals are not permitted in certain restricted areas. However, the zoo is happy to provide a guided walk-through of these areas by a volunteer while another member of the guest’s party supervises the service animal. Guests can complete the Accommodation Request Form to ask for this service.

Special Circumstance Restrictions

Some zoo animals may naturally react suddenly to the presence of a service animal. Service animals may be temporarily restricted from specific public areas due to zoo animal concerns regarding new births, hatchings, nesting, or breeding. If at any time the presence of a service animal upsets zoo animals—causing them to become distressed, aggressive, or dangerous to themselves or others—the service animal must be removed from that area. In such an event, the zoo will offer a guided walk-through of the area as specified above. Staff at Searle Visitor Center can arrange this service.


Guests should direct questions about service animals to Guest Services at Searle Visitor Center. For more information about service animals and the ADA, visit the Illinois Attorney General’s statement about service animals.

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