Service Animals are Trained to Work
By Brian Elliott
People are using service animals across many disabilities, and they are not always easily identifiable to an outside observer. A person with diabetes, epileptic seizures, or anxiety does not broadcast disability the same way as a wheelchair or white stick. Similar to someone parking in a handicapped spot and stepping out to walk to the door, disabilities are not always evident from the outside. It is important to know that within the ADA:
- · There are no restrictions on a dog’s breed or size.
- · No requirements that service animals need to be wearing something that designates them as a service animal.
Only two questions may be asked when inquiring about a person’s service animal:
- 1) Is this a service animal required because of a disability?
- 2) What task has the dog been trained to perform?
That’s it. Worker’s can’t ask to see the task performed or for documentation of any kind. No other questions may be asked of the person and their service animal. Even though there is not a requirement to be wearing a vest or a leash and workers cannot ask any other questions, a service animal must still be under the control of the handler at all times. A handler that is unable to control their dog because of bad behavior, incontinence, etc., may be asked to remove the dog from the premises. The person may still return without the dog to get services if they desire.
A service animal is defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a dog that has been trained to do work or perform a specific task for a person with a disability. Notice that distinction, the dog performs a specific task for the person and their disability. There is not an official training course or governing body that accredits and provides documentation to people and their service animals. Although, it is VERY important to note that animals who solely provide comfort/emotional support are NOT service animals under the ADA. Miniature Horses are now also covered under the definition of a service animal as the only exception provided. Public spaces that must accommodate for dogs as service animals must also consider allowing a mini horse with these four extra considerations:
- 1. Is the miniature horse is housebroken;
- 2. The miniature horse is under the owner’s control;
- 3. The facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight; and
- 4. The miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.
Other aspects of a service animal to keep in mind are that they are exempt from the typical pet fees and the service animal takes priority over other people. In other words, when a person with a disability goes somewhere with their service animal that typically would charge for having a pet, such as a hotel or rent in an apartment and a pet fee typically is added to the bill, these charges are NOT allowed under the ADA. Remember that these are working animals and not strictly pets. Charges can be applied for pets, but not a service animal. Only when damages have occurred from a service animal can charges be applied. As far as other people and a person’s service animal, the service animal has every right to be with their person. If there is a person with fears, allergies, or issues related to a service animal, it is on that person to make arrangements as needed. Whether that means going to the other side of the room or through other methods, the person with a service animal cannot be asked to leave because someone else is uncomfortable.
There are a wide range of jobs for the dogs in these careers. Yes, these are careers for the service animals. When you see someone out with their service animal, remember that it is working and not just out for leisure and fun. Even though having a job to do is fun for many of these animals and they thrive through the ability to work, please keep your hands to yourself. Ask first and only if the handler says it is alright, then you may pet. I know it’s hard to resist, but the service animal has an important job and should be allowed to do so without interference.
Recapping what was covered and we all now know about service animals:
- · Service animal is defined as a dog (or mini horse) that has been trained to do a specific task for a person with a disability.
- · There are no size, breed, weight, or official uniform for a service animal.
- · Emotional support animals are NOT service animals.
- · No official accreditation's.
- · There are a variety of reasons a person may have a service animal.
- · Workers are only allowed to ask two questions.
- · Pet fees do not apply to service animals.
- · Service animals get priority over other people.
- · Ask first, then pet.