Service and emotional support animals help create a better life for their handlers who need assistance on a daily basis. To provide these services, assistance animals are individually trained to aid and perform specific tasks.
Discrimination against a person with an assistance animal is prohibited by federal and state law. However, there’s a lack of awareness about these laws and how they work with regards to service animals versus emotional support animals.
Service animals must be dogs (or a miniature horse) “trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability,” according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example, a person with epilepsy may have a service dog trained to detect the onset of a seizure. Another example is a seeing-eye dog for a blind person. Service dogs are allowed everywhere the handler goes & lives.
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are not the same as service animals aren’t covered under the ADA. An ESA doesn’t have to perform a specific service. ESAs are allowed access in public places only when it comes to airline travel and housing. State laws vary when it comes to emotional support animals.
Here are four things everyone should know about service dogs:
Service Dogs Are Not Pets
Service dogs should not be pet by anyone who isn’t the handler, especially without permission. Petting an animal that is on duty may confuse the animal and hinder it from doing its job. The service dog’s purpose is to keep the handler safe, and petting may make them feel as if they are off duty.
Different Service Dogs Help with Different Disabilities
There are several types of service dogs that assist with tasks that may be physical or mental. These include:
- Guide dogs.
- Hearing dogs.
- Mobility assistance dogs.
- Medical alert dogs.
- Psychiatric service dogs.
Guide dogs are their handler’s eyes. They help those who are visually impaired get around on a day-to-day basis.
Medical assistance dogs warn their handler of impending medical problems, such as seizures, loss of consciousnesses, rapid change in blood sugar, and more.
Mobility service dogs provide balance for their handlers who may have a hard time walking. For someone who uses a wheelchair, they help pick up dropped items or things their owner cannot reach.
Psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform tasks for people who have a legitimate psychiatric illness. These types of service dogs assist those who may have post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or phobias. With these sorts of disorders, the animals are trained to help their owners with cycles of compulsiveness or sporadic outbreaks.
Service Dogs Do Not Have to be Certified
Service dog handlers are not required to obtain or show any documentation. There are businesses that certify service dogs, but the ADA doesn’t require it.
As a business owner, there are only two things you can legally ask someone about their service dog:
- “Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?”
- “What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”
The ADA prohibits anyone from asking about a person’s disability or asking them to demonstrate what the dog does.
Service Dog Restrictions
In public places, service dogs must be trained to behave well and stay under control. If the dog is unruly or out of control, and the handler does not take appropriate action to stop the behavior, they can be asked to leave. According to the ADA, employees still must offer the person with a disability an opportunity to obtain the service or goods without their animal being present. The animal must also be housebroken and have up-to-date vaccinations.
IF YOU FEEL YOU HAVE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BASED ON YOUR USE OF AN ASSISTANCE ANIMAL, OR FOR MORE INFORMATION REGARDING YOUR RIGHTS, CONTACT OUR FIRM’S ANIMAL LAWYER, MOLLI GARD MCGUIRE, IN TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA AT (850) 201-7210. YOU MAY BE ABLE TO RECOVER DAMAGES DEPENDING ON THE NATURE OF THE DISCRIMINATION.