Service Animals in the Public Setting
If you’ve been keeping up with the blogs, then you should very well already know that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an individual with a disability has the right to bring a service dog with him/her in public to aid in navigating outside, as well as with tasks throughout the day. As a disabled individual using a service animal, you are not obligated to put the interests of others before your legal, personal need for an accompanying service animal. In other words, if someone at a business has, for example, an allergy to or a fear of your specific animal, be it a dog, a cat, a miniature horse, or any other certified animal, it is the responsibility of the business owner or manager to make accommodations for both parties accordingly. One of the most simple and common accommodations is to just provide enough space between the service animal and the person with the allergy or fear, as most allergic reactions stem from physical contact with the allergen. It is essential to know that, by law, a business can only ask one of two questions to disabled individuals using a service animal: either, “Is that a service animal?”, or, “What service does the service animal provide?”. It is unlawful for a business to ask the disabled individual for an ID or other documentation for the service animal. It is also illegal for a business owner to deny the service animal entry into the establishment, due to their “no pets” policy for example. This is because service animals are not pets, and the disabled individual using the service animal is not an owner, but rather a handler. It may be hard for the business to distinguish a service animal from a pet if it is not wearing something that clearly identifies it as a service animal, but again, it is unlawful to ask for proof in the form of documentation as to the validity, licensure, and certification of the service animal.
As an individual with a disability, you should know your rights when it comes to using a service animal. Similarly, as a business owner, you should be familiar with the legality of service animals, and you should also educate your staff on proper procedures when inquiring about the service animal.
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This post was written by Sperling