Yesterday I told you about the “fakers,“ those who falsely claim their pet is a service animal in order to take with them wherever they go. Now that we know there are some bad actors out there that are claiming their pets are service animals, what can be done about it?
By knowing what the Americans with Disabilities Act states, you can protect yourself and your business without violating the rights of persons with disabilities. For those of you outside the US, these tips may help, but check your country’s laws pertaining to the use of service animals.
First of all, let me say this: Not all disabilities are obvious. Several people commented on seeing a person that did not “appear” to be disabled with a service animal. Just because they don’t appear so to you does not mean they’re “fakers.” There are dogs trained to do amazing things to help persons with seizure disorders, PTSD, and a myriad of other disabilities that you don’t readily recognize.
So what does the law say about service animals?
As of 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under ADA. The dog must be trained to do work or perform tasks for the person with a disability. The exception is miniature horses, and they are addressed below. No other animals are recognized as service animals under ADA.
Businesses must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where other members of the public are allowed to go. No exceptions. A person with a service animal cannot be isolated from others or treated differently, and cannot be charged fees not charged to those without service animals. If you treat a person with a service animal differently, you are guilty of discrimination.
If you have your doubts that a dog is a service animal, you may legally ask these two questions:
- Is this animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has this animal been trained to perform?
If the person cannot answer those questions, you may have a faker on your hand. Time to let security or law enforcement take over. Some states, such as Hawaii, are really cracking down on fakers.
You cannot ask if the need for the service animal is obvious (e.g., the dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person’s wheelchair.) You cannot ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability. You cannot require proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal, or require the animal to wear an identifying vest.
A service animal must be under control at all times. That means they must be leashed, harnessed, tethered, or otherwise restrained unless doing so would interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents the use of such devices.
A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove a service animal from the premises unless:
· The dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it
· The dog is not housebroken
If the dog is jumping up on others, tearing up merchandise, or otherwise out of control, you can ask the person to get their dog under control, and if they don’t, you can then ask them to remove the dog. However, if they do so, you must allow them to then return without the dog if they wish.
Business staff are not required to provide care or food for a service animal.
Miniature horses trained as service animals must be permitted if:
· The horse is housebroken
· The horse is under the owner’s control
· The facility can accommodate the horses type, size and weight, and
· The horse will not compromise legitimate safety requirements for the safe operation of the facility
A couple other things to keep in mind:
Therapy dogs and Emotional Support Animals serve important functions, but they are NOT service animals, and as such, are not covered under the ADA.
Service animals in rental homes are covered under The Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act covers service animal provisions for airline travel.