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Archive for the ‘Service Animals’ Category

What You Likely Don’t Know About Service Animals, but Should

Thursday, October 17th, 2019
Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance

  • A service dog is “Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability”
  • Any breed of dog can be a service animal, as can miniature horses
  • Service dogs do not require professional training and there are no required ADA certifications for service animals
  • People with disabilities are allowed to bring their service animals to all public facilities and private businesses, without providing any type of “proof” of their disability or dog’s “service animal” status
  • A service animal may also be denied access if its presence interferes with “legitimate safety requirements,” such as a hospital unit that must maintain a sterile environment
  • Service dogs should not be approached, talked to or touched, unless permission is asked for and granted by the dog’s handler

Service dogs provide invaluable support to their owners, alerting them to potentially life-threatening medical problems or offering psychiatric or visual support. While most people will never experience the close bond that exists between service dogs and their owners, most everyone will cross paths with a service dog at some point in their lives.

Despite their prevalence — you’re likely to spot one sooner or later, since service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners virtually everywhere — many misconceptions persist about these generous animals. This is partly because service dogs look like any other dog, which leads some to believe they should be treated like any other dog — which isn’t the case if the dog is “working.”

Also problematic, the U.S. has no centralized process that allows people with disabilities to register service dogs,1 which means, even though service dogs are afforded special rights, there’s a lot of grey area when it comes to how those rights are protected, for both the dogs and their owners.

Clearing up common misconceptions is an important part of ensuring that service dogs and their owners get the respect and protections they deserve.

Service Dogs Are Not the Same as Emotional Support Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA) defines a service animal as, “Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.”2

Miniature horses have been added as an exception, however, provided they are housebroken, under the handler’s control, can be accommodated by the facility and will not compromise safety regulations.

On the other hand, emotional support animals (ESAs), according to the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), can be any species of animal, who must fulfill a disability-related need and whose use is supported by a physician, psychiatrist or mental health professional. ESAs do not have to be trained to perform a particular task and do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

Service Dogs Are Not Only for the Visually Impaired

Guide dogs for the visually impaired are just one type of service dog. Service dogs can be trained to help people with physical or mental difficulties, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If a veteran is experiencing anxiety or stress due to PTSD, for instance, a service dog can be trained to notice the signs and step in to provide calm and comfort.

They may wake a veteran up from nightmares and are also taught specific commands, including “block,” in which the dog stands in front of the veteran to provide for more personal space, and “cover,” in which the dog goes behind the veteran to “watch their back.”3 Other examples of tasks that service animals may perform include:4

Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds Providing non-violent protection or rescue work
Pulling a wheelchair Assisting an individual during a seizure Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities Helping people with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors

Not All Service Dogs Are Professionally Trained

Service dogs do not require professional training and there are no required ADA certifications for service animals. While most service dogs come from reputable trainers or organizations that specialize in training service dogs, according to the ADA, “People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.”5

That being said, many service dogs undergo about two years of training before they’re ready and will continue to learn and adapt to their owner’s changing needs over time.6 There are also misconceptions about what type of dog can be a service dog; according to the ADA, any dog breed can be a service animal.

In choosing a service dog, personality is often more important than breed; dogs who are fearful or aggressive are not well suited to be service dogs.

Can Service Dogs Ever Be Denied Access?

People with disabilities are allowed to bring their service animals to all public facilities and private businesses. The owners of a business may ask two questions to determine if the animal is a service animal — and only if the need for the service animal isn’t obvious (such as a dog guiding someone who is blind. Those questions are:7

  • Is this animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has this animal been trained to perform?

Beyond this, no further questioning or “proof” is needed. As noted by the ADA, “A public entity or private business may not ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability or require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal, or require the animal to wear an identifying vest.”8

Generally, service animals are allowed to go where their owners go, but there are a few exceptions in which a business can ask for a service animal to be removed, including if the animal is out of control or not housebroken. A service animal may also be denied access if its presence interferes with “legitimate safety requirements,” such as a hospital unit that must maintain a sterile environment.9

Should You Pet a Service Dog?

One important point to remember is that certain rules of etiquette apply when it comes to interacting with service dogs and their handlers. Generally speaking, don’t interact with them at all; let the dog and the owner go about their business uninterrupted.

Service dogs should not be approached, talked to or touched unless permission is asked for and granted by the dog’s handler, but take no offense if the handler asks you not to interact with the dog — doing so could distract him from his important role, which is to look out for the health and safety of his owner.

Why Fake Service Dogs Do More Harm Than You Might Think

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

From www.fearfreehappyhomes.com and Award-winning journalist Jen Reeder 

A service dog named Elmer has made a wonderful difference for a 7-year-old boy named Gavin Swearingen. As a toddler, Gavin fell off a swing and suffered a traumatic brain injury that led to complex medical issues, from strokes and epilepsy to cerebral palsy marked by weakness on his right side.

Elmer, a Labrador-Golden Retriever mix raised and trained by the nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence, teamed up with Gavin in November of 2018. The attentive dog assists Gavin in numerous ways: acting as a buffer in public places since Gavin has no peripheral vision on his right side, engaging Gavin with physical therapy tasks (that seem more like a game with a dog) such as throwing a ball or holding his leash, and supporting him through his tenth cranial surgery.

Having a service dog has given Gavin “an independence and a strength,” according to his mom, Amanda Swearingen.

“We’re just grateful,” she says.

The Trouble With Fake Service Dogs

While Swearingen has witnessed the positive effect a trained service dog can have for people with disabilities, she has also learned firsthand that fake service dogs have a negative effect.

For starters, after fraudulent service dogs misbehave in businesses, staff, owners, and other patrons can grow leery of legitimate ones. One woman got “really angry” at the Swearingens for having a dog in a restaurant soon after they brought Elmer home; in another instance, a man asked, “Is your son disabled enough to need a dog?”

Safety is another huge issue. Recently when Amanda, Gavin, and Elmer were trying to enter a hospital, they crossed paths with a woman walking a small dog – clearly not a true service dog – who started barking and snapping at them.

“We couldn’t go in,” she recalls. “And for me it’s scary because I had a child attached to a dog and he’s not a robot. He’s still a dog. He has been through years and years of training, but he’s still a dog.”

Dogs Outside the Law

Service dog fraud has become so widespread that one in five Canine Companions graduates feel their quality of life and independence has been moderately or severely impacted by fraudulent service dogs, according to a 2018 survey by the organization.

“We are committed to the safety and access rate of our graduate teams, which is impacted by the presence of out-of-control dogs, whether they are wearing a vest and purporting to be a service dog, or a pet dog that is in a public place where they are not permitted under the law,” says Wallis Brozman, outreach program specialist for Canine Companions.

It’s a professional as well as a personal issue for Brozman, who is a three-time graduate of Canine Companions.

“I actually had to retire my second service dog after two and a half years because he was attacked so many times that he was completely uncomfortable going into public places and didn’t want to work because he was constantly looking for other dogs to make sure he was safe,” she says. “At that point, if your dog doesn’t feel safe, that’s a safety issue for you as a person with a disability.”

Canine Companions for Independence®Canine Companions dogs undergo around two years of socialization and training, and the nonprofit invests about $50,000 in each service dog (and provides them free of charge to people with disabilities). A service dog’s early retirement is a significant loss to both the handler and the organization.

Even without an attack, a phony service dog can distract a legitimate, task-trained service dog from his or her job. Fake service dogs can also create a bias against actual service dogs if they have an accident or incident in a grocery store or other business that allows only service dogs, says Brozman.

“I think a lot of people see fraudulent service dogs as not really hurting anyone,” she says. “The reality is that people are actually getting hurt. We have someone like me, who has had to start over and lost a service dog because of this very issue.”

Brozman says it’s important to note that while people might want their pets to go everywhere with them, their pets might prefer to be left at home. When a dog reacts negatively to other dogs or strangers, it’s often a sign of fear or stress.

“I think a lot of dogs love their life of leisure where they’re at home,” she says. “That’s something to keep in mind with any animal in your life: ‘Am I doing what’s best for my animal?’”

For more information or to take a stand against service dog fraud, visit: CCI.org/StopFraud

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Cover photo courtesy Liz Kaye Photography; inset photo courtesy Canine Companions for Independence®

Award-winning journalist Jen Reeder is former president of the Dog Writers Association of America.

Bogus ‘Service Animal Certifications’ Increasingly Being Sold Online

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Mercola Healthy PetsBy Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance

  • Service dogs or animals who provide mental, emotional or physical support have made it possible for people with disabilities to live independently, but now, there are websites advertising bogus certification for support animals
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says support animals don’t have the same federal protections as service animals, and business owners may ask someone with a disability only two questions regarding their service animal
  • Some people purchase vests or certification to identify their animals as needed support without their animal having actual qualifications behind their label — in some cases simply to bring their favorite animal with them into public places
  • It’s often obvious when an animal is a bona fide service dog, such as when they’re guiding someone who is unable to see, is in a wheelchair or has trouble with stability or balance, but other times, disabilities aren’t evident
  • According to the ADA, there are regulations in place regarding service dogs, such as what to do if someone is afraid of or allergic to service animals, whether restaurants or theaters are exempt, and whether extra fees are allowed

Service dogs or animals who provide mental, emotional or physical support have transformed the lives of scores of people, as they make it possible for people with disabilities to live independently. Since new laws have sanctioned the public appearance of service animals, the lives of their humans are far easier and less stressful, as Katherine Moore, who is legally blind, can attest.

“When you have a service animal it’s like you are one. When I put my hand on his harness it’s like an extension of my arm … That’s like putting a value on your freedom. How do you do that? How do you say what your freedom is worth? It’s worth everything.”1

Training for service animals is wide-ranging and extensive, which is why Moore says she’s able to live a full life, including working and commuting, just as she did before she lost her ability to see. One of the few organizations in Tennessee that specializes in service dog training, Smoky Mountain Service Dogs (SMSD),2 focuses on training dogs that will be used by wounded veterans. Mike Kitchens, chairman of SMSD, explains:

“Every dog that we have we will take to Harley Davidson and have them start up the motorcycles. We will take them to the baggage area at the airport. Revolving doors. They have to be so environmentally stable because the intent is for that dog to be able to accompany that veteran wherever he goes.”3

Other animals may provide emotional comfort, but they don’t necessarily fall under the same federal protections as service animals. In fact, Dr. Zenithson Ng from the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s College of Veterinary Medicine contends that emotional support animals are pets. They may alleviate symptoms of conditions their humans have, and even be designated by mental health professionals, but still, they’re not considered service animals. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

“While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.”4

Bogus Service Dog Certifications: ‘There’s No Such Thing’

Where there’s a service, privilege or right, especially when it comes to animals, it seems there’s always people willing to bend the rules. It usually involves money, and selling so-called “service dog certification” to designate animals with qualifications they don’t actually have are no exception. Needless to say, the types of service and support animals are vast and can be confusing. Here’s a chart that summarizes all of the categories.

“It’s major issue for us because we see it all. We really do,” Kitchens says. “You can Google ‘service dog access’ and you will come up with multiple organizations that for $69.95 we will send you a service dog certification. Well, there is no such thing.”5 There’s also no national registry for animals who are designated helpers for humans, Ng says.

For a fee, there are dozens of websites that offer vests for dogs to wear that “certify” them as certified service, emotional support or therapy animals. There’s another reason why some people are willing to purchase vests without their animal having actual qualifications behind their label. WATE.com notes that for some, it’s also a way to bring their favorite animal with them into public places.

Ng, who’s a member of the steering committee on human-animal interaction with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), says the problem is a hot topic among personnel responsible for governing the situation due to what he terms as an “onslaught” of problems the AVMA has run into recently. He also notes:

“We are so lucky in this society to have this term of emotional support animal and … we really should designate that for the people who need them and the animals that are well behaved in public settings. So when people are taking advantage of the system that’s really hard, it’s disappointing.”6

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Service Animals: Training to Perform Their True Function

The ADA acknowledges that it’s often fairly obvious when an animal is merely accompanying someone in a public place as a pet, or if it’s a bona fide service animal; you’ll know the latter is the case if a dog is guiding someone who is either blind or unable to see clearly, or helping someone who has trouble with stability or balance or is in a wheelchair. However, sometimes disabilities are not always visible to bystanders. The ADA, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, states:

“When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.”7

Further, service animals are limited to dogs under Title II and III of the ADA, as of March 15, 2011.8 Local laws prohibiting specific breeds of dogs do not apply to service animals.

The ADA states that a “service animal” refers to any dog individually trained to do what is necessary to help someone with a disability, whether it’s physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or mental. It makes clear, however, that emotional support animals, comfort animals and therapy dogs are not in the same category: They’re not service animals. Similarly, the work service animals perform must be related directly to their human’s disability. In addition:

“It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal.”9

ADA Facts Regarding Service Animals

An animal may or may not be wearing a special collar or harness. Some, but not all, are certified, licensed and/or have identification papers stating as such; however, they may not be carrying those papers with them. Most service dogs perform jobs most are familiar with, such as Seeing Eye dogs, seizure response dogs and those who alert people with hearing impairments.10

It’s important to note, though, that some local and state governments have special rules for people entering businesses or public places with support animals aside from service dogs, such as emotional support animals, so it’s best to check with these agencies to find out if such ordinances exist. From a page on the ADA’s website, facts regarding service dogs in businesses include:11

A service animal must be permitted to accompany an individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go and must not be segregated from other customers.

Even if an establishment has “no pets” signs posted, service animals, again, are not pets. Further, the ADA requires proprietors of “restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities” to change the wording in such postings to accommodate service animals needed by people with disabilities.

ADA rules supersede local and state laws stating that only guide dogs are admitted to enter a business to assist individuals with disabilities — so refusing to allow other types of service animals violates the ADA. That said, service animals must be under control, and they must be housebroken.

Businesses are not allowed to charge customers with service animals any maintenance, deposits or cleaning fees, even if such charges are in place for pets. However, if a service dog does damage in, say, a hotel, proprietors can charge the customer with the disability, but only if the hotel’s policy is to charge non-disabled guests for similar damage.

Taxi companies may object to a service dog accompanying a disabled person getting into their cabs, but refusing to pick someone up for this reason is also a violation, even if the taxi company is privately owned, and they can’t raise the fare.

Service Animals: Sometimes Other Rules Apply

There are dozens of situations regarding service animals in public places, and probably just as many exceptions. For instance, the care and conduct of service animals is the responsibility of the disabled person they’re with — the animal’s owner. Business owners aren’t required to provide food, care or a special location for the animal.

Arguably one of the greatest concerns people have about service animals relates to fear of the animal becoming a threat to themselves or their customers. But fear of animals, dogs included, or allergies to animals are not good enough reasons to refuse service. The business or government entity is expected to find solutions if employees, other customers or travelers are afraid of or allergic to dogs, such as allowing more or even a separated space.12

As for air travel, the rules are different. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) says airlines must allow both service and emotional support animals to travel in the cabin with the people they’re helping. True, the rules for the latter are getting more strict in light of a number of unfortunate animal incidents on flights.

For that reason, WATE News notes, people who want to travel with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals may be required to supply specific documentation, including proof of their disability and why their animal is necessary, well before their trip.

People with disabilities who want more information regarding special circumstances, including air travel, may also want to check the provisions made under the Fair Housing Act, which can be found on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development site,13 as it includes specifications for service and emotional support animals.

Bogus ‘Service Animal Certifications’ Increasingly Being Sold Online

Thursday, September 19th, 2019
  • Service dogs or animals who provide mental, emotional or physical support have made it possible for people with disabilities to live independently, but now, there are websites advertising bogus certification for support animals
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says support animals don’t have the same federal protections as service animals, and business owners may ask someone with a disability only two questions regarding their service animal
  • Some people purchase vests or certification to identify their animals as needed support without their animal having actual qualifications behind their label — in some cases simply to bring their favorite animal with them into public places
  • It’s often obvious when an animal is a bona fide service dog, such as when they’re guiding someone who is unable to see, is in a wheelchair or has trouble with stability or balance, but other times, disabilities aren’t evident
  • According to the ADA, there are regulations in place regarding service dogs, such as what to do if someone is afraid of or allergic to service animals, whether restaurants or theaters are exempt, and whether extra fees are allowed

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Service dogs or animals who provide mental, emotional or physical support have transformed the lives of scores of people, as they make it possible for people with disabilities to live independently. Since new laws have sanctioned the public appearance of service animals, the lives of their humans are far easier and less stressful, as Katherine Moore, who is legally blind, can attest.

“When you have a service animal it’s like you are one. When I put my hand on his harness it’s like an extension of my arm … That’s like putting a value on your freedom. How do you do that? How do you say what your freedom is worth? It’s worth everything.”1

Training for service animals is wide-ranging and extensive, which is why Moore says she’s able to live a full life, including working and commuting, just as she did before she lost her ability to see. One of the few organizations in Tennessee that specializes in service dog training, Smoky Mountain Service Dogs (SMSD),2 focuses on training dogs that will be used by wounded veterans. Mike Kitchens, chairman of SMSD, explains:

“Every dog that we have we will take to Harley Davidson and have them start up the motorcycles. We will take them to the baggage area at the airport. Revolving doors. They have to be so environmentally stable because the intent is for that dog to be able to accompany that veteran wherever he goes.”3

Other animals may provide emotional comfort, but they don’t necessarily fall under the same federal protections as service animals. In fact, Dr. Zenithson Ng from the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s College of Veterinary Medicine contends that emotional support animals are pets. They may alleviate symptoms of conditions their humans have, and even be designated by mental health professionals, but still, they’re not considered service animals. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

“While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.”4

Bogus Service Dog Certifications: ‘There’s No Such Thing’

Where there’s a service, privilege or right, especially when it comes to animals, it seems there’s always people willing to bend the rules. It usually involves money, and selling so-called “service dog certification” to designate animals with qualifications they don’t actually have are no exception. Needless to say, the types of service and support animals are vast and can be confusing. Here’s a chart that summarizes all of the categories.

“It’s major issue for us because we see it all. We really do,” Kitchens says. “You can Google ‘service dog access’ and you will come up with multiple organizations that for $69.95 we will send you a service dog certification. Well, there is no such thing.”5 There’s also no national registry for animals who are designated helpers for humans, Ng says.

For a fee, there are dozens of websites that offer vests for dogs to wear that “certify” them as certified service, emotional support or therapy animals. There’s another reason why some people are willing to purchase vests without their animal having actual qualifications behind their label. WATE.com notes that for some, it’s also a way to bring their favorite animal with them into public places.

Ng, who’s a member of the steering committee on human-animal interaction with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), says the problem is a hot topic among personnel responsible for governing the situation due to what he terms as an “onslaught” of problems the AVMA has run into recently. He also notes:

“We are so lucky in this society to have this term of emotional support animal and … we really should designate that for the people who need them and the animals that are well behaved in public settings. So when people are taking advantage of the system that’s really hard, it’s disappointing.”6

Service Animals: Training to Perform Their True Function

The ADA acknowledges that it’s often fairly obvious when an animal is merely accompanying someone in a public place as a pet, or if it’s a bona fide service animal; you’ll know the latter is the case if a dog is guiding someone who is either blind or unable to see clearly, or helping someone who has trouble with stability or balance or is in a wheelchair. However, sometimes disabilities are not always visible to bystanders. The ADA, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, states:

“When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.”7

Further, service animals are limited to dogs under Title II and III of the ADA, as of March 15, 2011.8 Local laws prohibiting specific breeds of dogs do not apply to service animals.

The ADA states that a “service animal” refers to any dog individually trained to do what is necessary to help someone with a disability, whether it’s physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or mental. It makes clear, however, that emotional support animals, comfort animals and therapy dogs are not in the same category: They’re not service animals. Similarly, the work service animals perform must be related directly to their human’s disability. In addition:

“It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal.”9

ADA Facts Regarding Service Animals

An animal may or may not be wearing a special collar or harness. Some, but not all, are certified, licensed and/or have identification papers stating as such; however, they may not be carrying those papers with them. Most service dogs perform jobs most are familiar with, such as Seeing Eye dogs, seizure response dogs and those who alert people with hearing impairments.10

It’s important to note, though, that some local and state governments have special rules for people entering businesses or public places with support animals aside from service dogs, such as emotional support animals, so it’s best to check with these agencies to find out if such ordinances exist. From a page on the ADA’s website, facts regarding service dogs in businesses include:11

A service animal must be permitted to accompany an individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go and must not be segregated from other customers.

Even if an establishment has “no pets” signs posted, service animals, again, are not pets. Further, the ADA requires proprietors of “restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities” to change the wording in such postings to accommodate service animals needed by people with disabilities.

ADA rules supersede local and state laws stating that only guide dogs are admitted to enter a business to assist individuals with disabilities — so refusing to allow other types of service animals violates the ADA. That said, service animals must be under control, and they must be housebroken.

Businesses are not allowed to charge customers with service animals any maintenance, deposits or cleaning fees, even if such charges are in place for pets. However, if a service dog does damage in, say, a hotel, proprietors can charge the customer with the disability, but only if the hotel’s policy is to charge non-disabled guests for similar damage.

Taxi companies may object to a service dog accompanying a disabled person getting into their cabs, but refusing to pick someone up for this reason is also a violation, even if the taxi company is privately owned, and they can’t raise the fare.

Service Animals: Sometimes Other Rules Apply

There are dozens of situations regarding service animals in public places, and probably just as many exceptions. For instance, the care and conduct of service animals is the responsibility of the disabled person they’re with — the animal’s owner. Business owners aren’t required to provide food, care or a special location for the animal.

Arguably one of the greatest concerns people have about service animals relates to fear of the animal becoming a threat to themselves or their customers. But fear of animals, dogs included, or allergies to animals are not good enough reasons to refuse service. The business or government entity is expected to find solutions if employees, other customers or travelers are afraid of or allergic to dogs, such as allowing more or even a separated space.12

As for air travel, the rules are different. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) says airlines must allow both service and emotional support animals to travel in the cabin with the people they’re helping. True, the rules for the latter are getting more strict in light of a number of unfortunate animal incidents on flights.

For that reason, WATE News notes, people who want to travel with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals may be required to supply specific documentation, including proof of their disability and why their animal is necessary, well before their trip.

People with disabilities who want more information regarding special circumstances, including air travel, may also want to check the provisions made under the Fair Housing Act, which can be found on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development site,13 as it includes specifications for service and emotional support animals.

12 Misconceptions About Service Dogs And Those Who Use Them

Monday, August 5th, 2019

12 Misconceptions About Service Dogs And Those Who Use Them

By Kaelynn Partlow, August 2019

Today, as dogs are being trained to assist with an increasingly wide range of conditions, more individuals are incorporating a four-legged helper into their lives. That said, there are still many misconceptions surrounding service dogs, including who can have them and what they do.

Here are 12 of the most common misconceptions about service dogs.

There is a very clear legal difference between the two, and they shouldn’t be confused. An emotional support dog is defined as an untrained pet who emotionally supports her or his handler. With a doctor’s note, support dogs are allowed to fly in the cabin of an aircraft free of charge and live in no-pets-allowed housing.

A service dog, however, is considered to be medical equipment, no different than a wheelchair or insulin pump. Service dogs must be specifically trained to do work or tasks relating to the mitigation of a person’s disability. Emotional support, comfort or calming effect do not count as work or tasks for a service dog.

2. Service Dogs Are Certified Or Registered After Completing Training.

While in the U.S., there is no such thing as a legitimate federal or state identification card or certificate that “proves” a dog is a trained service dog, many scam sites claim their products are not only legitimate, but mandatory. It is because of such scam sites that this misconception exists.

3. Service Dogs Are Only For The Blind Or Deaf.

This used to be the case many years ago, but things have changed. Today, service dogs are used by people with mental illnesses, autism, seizures, diabetes and countless other conditions.

Technically speaking, training never ends. Service dogs must be able to learn new things and adapt to their handlers’ needs as they change over time. Additionally, it is not uncommon for fully trained dogs to need a bit of touch-up on things they’ve already learned how to do. But initially, from start to finish, it takes about two years to train a service dog.

5. Service Dogs Work All The Time And Never Get Time To “Just Be A Dog.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth! Being a working service dog is arguably the best life a dog could have. They’re able to be with their handlers almost all the time, no matter where they go. They have a job and a purpose, and most get a higher quality of care than many humans.

6. Bully Breeds Can’t Be Service Dogs.

Any dog of any breed, shape or size can potentially be a service dog, provided they are healthy, have a stable temperament and can be trained to do the necessary work. Many “unusual” breeds make fantastic service dogs.

7. People With Service Dogs Are Lucky Because They Get To Bring Their Dog Everywhere With Them.

It’s understandable why someone might think this. However, people with disabilities certainly do not see it that way. The dog is there because the person has a condition that affects their capacity to perform at least one major life task. The dog’s purpose is to help the person be more independent.

The number of people who are fearful of service dogs because they think they’re there for drug detection is surprising. While the dog can probably smell drugs, service dogs and detection dogs are trained to respond to completely different things. The only person service dogs focus on is their handler.

9. It’s Okay To Pet A Service Dog If The Handler Isn’t Looking.

In the service-dog community, people who do this are called “drive-by petters.” They wait for the handler to look away, then pet the dog as they walk by. Not only is this disrespectful, it’s also distracting to the dog, who needs to be focused on working. In addition, most states have laws prohibiting interference with or intentionally injuring (or allowing another dog to injure) service dogs.

10. People With Service Dogs Want To Chat.

No, they don’t. They usually just want to, say, get milk and go home rather than indulge a stranger’s curiosity. Just because they have a dog doesn’t mean they want to share their life story with everyone who asks.

11. Businesses Can Require People With Service Dogs To Prove They Need Them.

According to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, staff may ask two questions: First, is the dog a service animal who is required because of a disability? Second, what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

12. Businesses Are Never Allowed To Ask That A Service Dog Be Removed.

Just like people with disabilities, businesses have rights too. If a dog is out of control, acting aggressively or not house trained, a business can and should ask that the dog be taken off the premises.

The next time you see a service dog team out and about, ignore the dog and go about your business. It’s fine to offer a smile, but beyond that, do the team the courtesy of allowing them to go about their business as well, without distractions.

 

ESA, Therapy and Service Dogs

Sunday, March 3rd, 2019

A Service Dog is more than a vest

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

To spot a true service dog, check its behavior – not its vest

Friday, May 18th, 2018

    • From the YakimaHerald.com
    • Jim Camden – Spokesman-Review

Apr 6, 2018

service dog
Sheryl Womble embraces Nia, her German Shepherd service dog, after exercising near their home on Wednesday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – For the past 20 years, service dogs have helped Sheryl Womble with day-to-day tasks like opening doors and picking things up off the floor, and even taking off her coat and gloves.

So when a dog wearing a “service animal” vest growled and lunged at her dog during a crowded community gathering several years ago, she knew the menacing dog was not a trained service animal. Womble, a quadriplegic, did the only thing she could.

She maneuvered her wheelchair to block the attacking dog. She got bit.

To be a real service dog takes extensive training, at least a year and sometimes longer depending on what the dog will be doing to help its owner.

A new Washington law that allows businesses to question whether the animal accompanying a customer is a true service animal may provide some clarity and keep some people from trying to pass off their untrained pet, Womble and others said.

“It might help a little,” said Debbie Wing of LynnDee’s Grooming and Dog Training Center. “It might scare some people off” from trying to pass off their pet as a service animal just because they want to bring it into a store or restaurant, or take it with them on a bus or plane.

The law, which was signed late last month by Gov. Jay Inslee and takes effect Jan. 1, makes it a civil infraction with a penalty of as much as $500 to falsely claim an animal is a service animal in a “place of public accommodation.”

But the ADA does not set up a certification program for service animals, Wing said, so it’s easy for a person to make that claim and hard for a business to challenge it. Under the new law, a business employee or law enforcement officer can ask the owner two questions if they suspect a dog that is causing a disturbance isn’t a true service animal: Is the animal required because of a disability? What tasks is the animal trained to perform?

Deputy Mark Gregory, a spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, said the new law could provide some clarity for officers responding to complaints that come in from time to time. Whether it will result in more calls, or fewer, is hard to predict, but the department will sit down with legal advisers and human rights advocates to form a policy before briefing deputies on procedures, he said.

“This always has been a case of you don’t want to turn around and infringe on someone’s rights who is disabled and needs that assistance,” Gregory said. “As with any other law, we’re going to have to use common sense.”

Usually, law enforcement is called when a dog or another animal is creating a nuisance or disturbance in a store or a restaurant and the owner refuses to leave, claiming it’s a service animal.

But the size or breed of a dog is not an indicator, she added. A 6-foot man who is diabetic could have a Chihuahua for a service animal, trained to detect by smell when he needs to take his insulin.

Also not an indicator: a vest on the dog or a badge the owner is wearing that says service animal. Those are available online, for a price, by filling out a form. “It’s a racket,” Wing said.

Buying a trained dog can cost thousands of dollars and require years on a waiting list, she said.

Training a service animal also takes time and money. Womble said owners start with basic obedience, and work toward specific tasks they need the dog to perform. They keep a log of training and tasks accomplished, and the instructors used. They refresh their training every year or so.

“You never stop working your dog,” she said.

Most people quit, because they either don’t have the time or money, or both. And really all they want is to take their pet with them somewhere, she said.

The law does not cover therapy dogs, which have separate training to go into schools, hospitals or other facilities to help people. Nor does it cover comfort or emotional support animals, terms that some people use for a wide variety of pets they might claim they need to calm their nerves.

Gregory wonders if that might be something the Legislature will have to consider in the future, because some returning veterans and others with post-traumatic stress disorder do have a legitimate need for a therapy animal to help them cope with severe anxiety they might experience in aspects of daily life.

PTSD isn’t covered under the ADA, so they aren’t included in the state law, he said.

An officer who believes an owner is falsely claiming their disruptive dog is a service animal will be able to write a ticket for a civil infraction. The owner can contest the ticket and possible fine of $500 in court by presenting proof that the dog is a service animal.

Judges familiar with the ADA should know not to accept a simple certificate from some website, Womble said. They should ask to see the owner’s log with the times, dates and places where the training took place, and the instructors who provided it.

If the law cuts down on incidents with untrained dogs, there may be an added benefit to real service animals and their owners, who sometimes get critical looks or comments from people, Wing said.

Rep. Mike Steele, R-Chelan, the sponsor of the legislation, said the goal of the law is to balance the rights of disabled people to have the assistance they need with the rights of the rest of the public to be safe from misbehaving and possibly aggressive dogs. It’s designed to give businesses and police some options when there’s a problem.

“As long as (a dog) is not misbehaving and being disruptive, you’re not going to have a problem,” Steele said. “No one’s going to come after your dog if it’s by your side, behaving itself.”

Service, Emotional Support and Therapy Animals

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

  From the AVMA

Animals can play a very important role assisting people with disabilities and as part of therapeutic activities. Most people are aware of the role of service animals, such as guide dogs, but other types of assistance animals may be less familiar.

A more recently developed legal category of assistance animals is the emotional support animal (ESA). These are animals that provide companionship and emotional support for people diagnosed with a psychological disorder. They are documented by a letter from a human health professional, which legally guarantees that they may live with their handler and accompany them on aircraft, exempt from the fees that would be charged for a companion animal.

Some people misrepresent their animals as assistance animals in order to bring them to places where pets are not allowed, to avoid fees, or out of a misunderstanding of the animal’s role. It is important for veterinarians to assist their clients in correctly identifying their animals, and to provide care and advice consistent with the animal’s role.

The AVMA recognizes and supports the federal definition of service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act; the federal regulations for emotional support animals under  the Fair Housing Act and Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and provides guidelines related to animal-assisted interventions. At its July 2017 meeting, the AVMA House of Delegates approved a new policy on the Veterinarian’s Role in Supporting Appropriate Selection and Use of Service, Assistance and Therapy Animals​​ proposed by the Steering Committee on Human-Animal Interactions.

To learn more about assistance animals please refer to the newly released AVMA report: Assistance Animals: Rights of Access and the Problem of Fraud. While fraud can be a vexing issue, it is important for veterinarians to actively support the appropriate use of assistance animals and anti-fraud initiatives   so that undue burden is not placed on people using these animals in their intended roles.

If you are an AVMA member and would like to provide information or suggestions to the Steering Committee on Human-Animal Interactions relating to assistance animals or animals used for therapeutic purposes, please email the committee at humananimalbond@avma.org.

The Legal Context For Assistance Animal Use – Definitions

Classification​ ​Definition ​As Defined By
​Assistance Animal ​“Any animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability,” as defined by the ADA.4 “Individuals with a disability may be entitled to keep an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation in housing facilities that otherwise impose restrictions or prohibitions on animals. In order to qualify for such an accommodation, the assistance animal must be necessary to afford the individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling or to participate in the housing service or program. Further, there must be a relationship, or nexus, between the individual’s disability and the assistance the animal provides. If these requirements are met, a housing facility, program or service must permit the assistance animal as an accommodation, unless it can demonstrate that allowing the assistance animal would impose an undue financial or administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing program or services.” ​U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (FHEO-2013-01)
​Service Animal ​“Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.” Miniature horses have been added as a specific provision to the ADA. The miniature horse must be housebroken, under the handler’s control, can be accommodated for by the facility, and will not compromise safety regulations. ​Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 (Section 35.136)
​Any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a qualified person with a disability; or any animal shown by documentation to be necessary for the emotional well-being of a passenger… Psychiatric service animals are recognized as service animals, but are considered to be emotional support animals and, therefore, subject to the applicable regulatory requirements, i.e. documentation. ​Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and CFR Part 382
​Emotional Support Animal ​An emotional support animal (ESA) may be an animal of any species, the use of which is supported by a qualified physician, psychiatrist or other mental health professional based upon a disability-related need. An ESA does not have to be trained to perform any particular task. ESAs do not qualify as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but they may be permitted as reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act. The Air Carrier Access Act provides specific allowances for ESAs traveling on airlines, though documentation may need to be provided. ​Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. Part 3604) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and C.F.R. Part 382.117
​Therapy Animal ​A therapy animal is a type of animal-assisted intervention in which there is a “goal directed intervention in which an animal meeting specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. Animal-assisted therapy is provided in a variety of settings, and may be group or individual in nature.” ​Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and CFR Part 382; AVMA Animal-Assisted Interventions: Definitions

 

​Find additional information, including reference citations, in Assistance Animals: Rights of Access and the Problem of Fraud(PDF).

SERVICE DOGS AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS

Monday, September 25th, 2017

By Dr. Jean Dodds at Hemopet in Garden Grove, CA

Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Depending on where you live, many businesses are now increasingly pet-friendly such as clothing stores, hotels, pet supply stores, photography studios, etc. For people who use and need service dogs for medical purposes or assistance, this can be a blessing and sometimes a problem. Compounding the problem is the definition of what is considered to be a service animal.

According to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) website, “A service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.” [The new ADA regulations also contain a specific provision which covers miniature horses.]

Under the ADA, service dogs allow people with medical conditions or disabilities to function and participate in society such as going to movie theatres, the grocery store, work, restaurants, etc. A service dog may pull a wheelchair. Another example is that a service dog can help a person with epilepsy by detecting and then keeping the person safe during a seizure. Of course, many of us frequently see guide dogs for people with visual impairments.

Businesses and other entities do have rights that protect them if a particular service animal behaves in a way that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or is not under the control of the handler.

Additionally, businesses can ask two specific questions about service animals – that do not violate or interfere with the civil rights of people with disabilities – and are then protected from litigation. The ADA website states:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog’s training, require that the dog demonstrate his/her task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.

Some states have regulations to protect people with disabilities that do not infringe on their civil rights. Colorado passed a law last year that imposes fines on people who misrepresent ordinary dogs as those specifically trained for the purpose of assisting someone with disabilities. California takes the law further. Service dogs must be registered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which provides standardized identification tags. Anyone in California who falsely claims an animal to be a service animal can be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for six months or a fine up to $1000 or both.

Fair Housing Act

Depending on the title within the ADA law, ADA is overseen by the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) – which is managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – defines assistance animals, “An assistance animal is nota pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.” The FHA states, “Persons with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation for any assistance animal, including an emotional support animal.”

So, FHA is more all-encompassing to ensure fair housing for everyone. It covers people with disabilities who need a service dog to perform tasks and people who need animals (any type) for emotional support. It overrides “no pets policies” by landlords.

FHA provisions are also built in in case the animal may be considered a danger to others or property. Property owners – if the disability is not apparent – can ask for documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability. The law does protect civil rights because landlords cannot ask for medical records or the nature of the disability.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Before we move on, we wanted to touch upon Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD), as approximately 15 states have statutory definitions of either disability or service dogs that are intentionally worded to exclude PSDs. If a person with a disability and a fully trained PSD qualifies under the ADA, they would still have regular protections under the ADA, but no additional ones provided by the state. These dogs are performing a specific task, such as:

  • Providing safety checks for, or calming, individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Sensing an anxiety attack and taking a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact.
  • Reminding a person with mental illness to take medications.
  • Preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors, such as self-mutilation.

It is certainly sad that psychiatric disorders are considered “murky” or go unrecognized in this day and age.

Air Carrier Access Act

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) was enacted to protect the civil rights and health of people with disabilities who use service animals, people with Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), and people with PSDs to be able to bring the animal into the cabin. This law falls under the aegis of the Department of Transportation.

For service animals, airlines can do the following:

  • Request the credible verbal assurances of a qualified individual with a disability using the animal.
  • Look for physical indicators such as the presence of a harness or tags.
  • Observe the behavior of the animal.

For ESA and PSD, airlines can request specific documentation and/or 48-hours advance notice that cannot be older than one year. It must state a mental or emotional disability that is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and a need for an ESA or PSD for air travel or at a destination. It must be written by a licensed mental health professional who provides care to the person, dated, with type of professional, and jurisdiction or state in which the license was issued.

Airlines are never required to accept snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders. Additionally, they can refuse an animal if it is not properly behaved. However, an animal cannot be refused if it just makes the crew or other passengers uncomfortable.

Conclusion

Some people sadly take advantage of the ADA, FHA and ACAA.

Regarding ADA, three loopholes appear to exist in the federal law:

  1. The ADA does not require that service animals be certified or licensed. Certification could be considered a barrier to entry and therefore discriminatory.
  2. A service dog does not have to be professionally trained, but can be personally trained. A professional training requirement may be considered a barrier to entry.
  3. Some state and local laws define service animal more broadly than the ADA.
  4. We have to remember that “trained for a specific task” is not the same as well-behaved – and this is where the ADA standards can fall apart.

As noted above, businesses have certain rights. However, businesses are reluctant to deny access to misbehaving service animals or ask if the animal is a service dog because they may pose their questions poorly. Then, they could be prosecuted for violating civil rights. People with disabilities who use well-behaved and trained service dogs are becoming rightfully angry and upset when people are taking advantage of the law.

In addition to the life-saving, emotional and functioning assistance service dogs provide, we need to remember the cost and number of years it took to get the dog to be specially trained. For instance, the full cost to breed, raise and train a service dog to help a child within the autism spectrum can be over $20,000. A guide dog for a person with a visual impairment is around $50,000.

Today, people with well-behaved and trained service dogs are pointing to people with ESAs or PSDs for making life more difficult for them outside of the home and on public transport and planes. In fact, the Advocates’ Service Animal Proposal wants to limit the rights of people with ESAs on planes. But, it is not a problem created by responsible people with legitimate ESAs or PSDs. It is only people who take advantage of the laws, as they are harming the civil rights and protections others desperately need.

W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843

 

References

“Advocates’ Service Animal Proposal.” (n.d.): n. pag. United States Department of Transportation, 21 July 2016. Web. 18 June 2017. https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/P4.SA%20Advocates%20Proposal%20072116.pdf.

“Air Travel with Service Animals.” (n.d.): 189-92. United States Department of Transportation. Web. 18 June 2017. https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/AirTravel_with_ServiceAnimals-TriFold.pdf.

“Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA.” United States Department of Justice, 20 Jan. 2015. Web. 18 June 2017. https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html.

“Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-Funded Programs.” (n.d.): n. pag. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 18 June 2017. https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=servanimals_ntcfheo2013-01.pdf.

“Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals.” ADA National Network, 27 June 2017. Web. 18 June 2017. https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet.

“States Specifically excluding PSDs from State Definition of Service Dog.” Service Dog Central, n.d. Web. 18 June 2017. https://www.servicedogcentral.org/content/node/464.