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Service Animals

Introduction

Service Animals

A service animal means 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. Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button.

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Other Support or Therapy Animals

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. Even though some states have laws defining therapy animals, these animals are not limited to working with people with disabilities and therefore are not covered by federal laws protecting the use of service animals.  Therapy animals provide people with therapeutic contact, usually in a clinical setting, to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning. [40]

Laws and enforcement

Public Facilities and Accommodations

Title II of the ADA covers state and local government facilities, activities, and programs. Title III of the ADA covers places of public accommodations. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act covers federal government facilities, activities, and programs. It also covers the entities that receive federal funding.

Title II and Title III Complaints: These can be filed through private lawsuits in federal court or directed to the U.S. Department of Justice.

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section _ NYA
Washington, DC 20530

http://www.ada.gov (link is external)
800-514-0301 (voice)
800-514-0383 (TTY)

Section 504 Complaints: These must be made to the specific federal agency that oversees the program or funding.

Employment

Title I of the ADA and Section 501 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination in employment. The ADA covers private employers with 15 or more employees; Section 501 applies to federal agencies, and Section 504 applies to any program or entity receiving federal financial assistance.

ADA Complaints: A person must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of an alleged violation of the ADA. This deadline may be extended to 300 days if there is a state or local fair employment practices agency that also has jurisdiction over this matter. Complaints may be filed in person, by mail, or by telephone by contacting the nearest EEOC office. This number is listed in most telephone directories under "U.S. Government." For more information:

http://www.eeoc.gov/contact/index.cfm (link is external)
800-13-4000 (voice)
800-13-6820 (TTY)

Section 501 Complaints: Federal employees must contact their agency̥s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) officer within 45 days of an alleged Section 501 violation.

Section 504 Complaints: These must be filed with the federal agency that funded the employer.

Housing

The Fair Housing Act (FHA), as amended in 1988, applies to housing. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all housing programs and activities that are either conducted by the federal government or receive federal financial assistance. Title II of the ADA applies to housing provided by state or local government entities.

Complaints: Housing complaints may be filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

http://www.hud.gov/fairhousing (link is external)
800-13-9777 (voice)
800-927-9275 (TTY)

Education

Students with disabilities in public schools (K-12) are covered by Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Title II of the ADA, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Students with disabilities in public postsecondary education are covered by Title II and Section 504.  Title III of the ADA applies to private schools (K-12 and post-secondary) that are not operated by religious entities. Private schools that receive federal funding are also covered by Section 504.

IDEA Complaints: Parents can request a due process hearing and a review from the state educational agency if applicable in that state. They also can appeal the state agency̥s decision to state or federal court. You may contact the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) for further information or to provide your own thoughts and ideas on how they may better serve individuals with disabilities, their families and their communities.

For more information contact:

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20202-7100

202-245-7468 (voice)

Transportation

Title II of the ADA applies to public transportation while Title III of the ADA applies to transportation provided by private entities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to federal entities and recipients of federal funding that provide transportation.

Title II and Section 504 Complaints: These may be filed with the Federal Transit Administration̥s Office of Civil Rights. For more information, contact:

Director, FTA Office of Civil Rights
East Building _ 5th Floor, TCR
1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20590

FTA ADA Assistance Line: 888-446-4511 (Voice)
800-877-8339 (Federal Information Relay Service)
http://www.fta.dot.gov/civil_rights.html (link is external)
http://www.fta.dot.gov/12874_3889.html (link is external) (Complaint Form)

Title III Complaints: These may be filed with the Department of Justice.

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section _ NYA
Washington, DC 20530

http://www.ada.gov (link is external)
800-514-0301 (voice)
800-514-0383 (TTY)

Note: A person does not have to file a complaint with the respective federal agency before filing a lawsuit in federal court.

Air Transportation

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) covers airlines. Its regulations clarify what animals are considered service animals and explain how each type of animal should be treated.

ACAA complaints may be submitted to the Department of Transportation̥s Aviation Consumer Protection Division. Air travelers who experience disability-related air travel service problems may call the hotline at 800-778-4838 (voice) or 800- 455-9880 (TTY) to obtain assistance. Air travelers who would like the Department of Transportation (DOT) to investigate a complaint about a disability issue must submit their complaint in writing or via e-mail to:

Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Attn: C-75-D
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, S.E.
Washington, DC 20590

Definition of Service Animals Under Title II and Title III of the ADA

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person̥s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of "assistance animal" under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of "service animal" under the Air Carrier Access Act.

Some State and local laws also define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the State attorney general̥s office. [85]

Understand

Handler̥s rights under the ADA

Public Facilities and Accommodations

Titles II and III of the ADA makes it clear that service animals are allowed in public facilities and accommodations. A service animal must be allowed to accompany the handler to any place in the building or facility where members of the public, program participants, customers, or clients are allowed. Even if the business or public program has a "no pets" policy, it may not deny entry to a person with a service animal. Service animals are not pets. So, although a "no pets" policy is perfectly legal, it does not allow a business to exclude service animals.

When a person with a service animal enters a public facility or place of public accommodation, the person cannot be asked about the nature or extent of his disability. Only two questions may be asked:

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

These questions should not be asked, however, if the animal̥s service tasks are obvious. For example, the questions may not be asked if the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person̥s wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability.

A public accommodation or facility is not allowed to ask for documentation or proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Local laws that prohibit specific breeds of dogs do not apply to service animals.

A place of public accommodation or public entity may not ask an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees. Entities cannot require anything of people with service animals that they do not require of individuals in general, with or without pets. If a public accommodation normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal. [40]

Employment

Laws prohibit employment discrimination because of a disability. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation. Allowing an individual with a disability to have a service animal or an emotional support animal accompany them to work may be considered an accommodation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces the employment provisions of the ADA (Title I), does not have a specific regulation on service animals.  In the case of a service animal or an emotional support animal, if the disability is not obvious and/or the reason the animal is needed is not clear, an employer may request documentation to establish the existence of a disability and how the animal helps the individual perform his or her job.

Documentation might include a detailed description of how the animal would help the employee in performing job tasks and how the animal is trained to behave in the workplace.  A person seeking such an accommodation may suggest that the employer permit the animal to accompany them to work on a trial basis.

Both service and emotional support animals may be excluded from the workplace if they pose either an undue hardship or a direct threat in the workplace. [40]

Housing

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects a person with a disability from discrimination in obtaining housing. Under this law, a landlord or homeowner̥s association must provide reasonable accommodation to people with disabilities so that they have an equal opportunity to enjoy and use a dwelling.  Emotional support animals that do not qualify as service animals under the ADA may nevertheless qualify as reasonable accommodations under the FHA.  In cases when a person with a disability uses a service animal or an emotional support animal, a reasonable accommodation may include waiving a no-pet rule or a pet deposit.  This animal is not considered a pet.

A landlord or homeowner̥s association may not ask a housing applicant about the existence, nature, and extent of his or her disability. However, an individual with a disability who requests a reasonable accommodation may be asked to provide documentation so that the landlord or homeowner̥s association can properly review the accommodation request.  They can ask a person to certify, in writing, (1) that the tenant or a member of his or her family is a person with a disability; (2) the need for the animal to assist the person with that specific disability; and (3) that the animal actually assists the person with a disability.  It is important to keep in mind that the ADA may apply in the housing context as well, for example with student housing. Where the ADA applies, requiring documentation or certification would not be permitted with regard to an animal that qualifies as a "service animal." [40]

Education

Service animals in public schools (K-12)13: The ADA permits a student with a disability who uses a service animal to have the animal at school.  In addition, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act allow a student to use an animal that does not meet the ADA definition of a service animal if that student̥s Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504 team decides the animal is necessary for the student to receive a free and appropriate education.  Where the ADA applies, however, schools should be mindful that the use of a service animal is a right that is not dependent upon the decision of an IEP or Section 504 team.

Emotional support animals, therapy animals, and companion animals are seldom allowed to accompany students in public schools. Indeed, the ADA does not contemplate the use of animals other than those meeting the definition of "service animal."  Ultimately, the determination whether a student may utilize an animal other than a service animal should be made on a case-by-case basis by the IEP or Section 504 team.

Service animals in post-secondary education settings: Under the ADA, colleges and universities must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility that are open to the public or to students.

Colleges and universities may have a policy asking students who use service animals to contact the school̥s Disability Services Coordinator to register as a student with a disability. Higher education institutions may not require any documentation about the training or certification of a service animal. They may, however, require proof that a service animal has any vaccinations required by state or local laws that apply to all animals. [40]

Transportation

A person traveling with a service animal cannot be denied access to transportation, even if there is a "no pets" policy. In addition, the person with a service animal cannot be forced to sit in a particular spot; no additional fees can be charged because the person uses a service animal; and the customer does not have to provide advance notice that s/he will be traveling with a service animal.

The laws apply to both public and private transportation providers and include subways, fixed-route buses, Paratransit, rail, light-rail, taxicabs, shuttles and limousine services. [40]

Air Travel

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) requires airlines to allow service animals and emotional support animals to accompany their handlers in the cabin of the aircraft.

Service animals: For evidence that an animal is a service animal, air carriers may ask to see identification cards, written documentation, presence of harnesses or tags, or ask for verbal assurances from the individual with a disability using the animal. If airline personnel are uncertain that an animal is a service animal, they may ask one of the following:

  1. What tasks or functions does your animal perform for you?
  2. What has your animal been trained to do for you?
  3. Would you describe how the animal performs this task for you? 15

Emotional support and psychiatric service animals: Individuals who travel with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals may need to provide specific documentation to establish that they have a disability and the reason the animal must travel with them. Individuals who wish to travel with their emotional support or psychiatric animals should contact the airline ahead of time to find out what kind of documentation is required.

Examples of documentation that may be requested by the airline: Current documentation (not more than one year old) on letterhead from a licensed mental health professional stating (1) the passenger has a mental health-related disability listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV); (2) having the animal accompany the passenger is necessary to the passenger̥s mental health or treatment; (3) the individual providing the assessment of the passenger is a licensed mental health professional and the passenger is under his or her professional care; and (4) the date and type of the mental health professional̥s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.  This documentation may be required as a condition of permitting the animal to accompany the passenger in the cabin.

Other animals: According to the ACAA, airlines are not required otherwise to carry animals of any kind either in the cabin or in the cargo hold. Airlines are free to adopt any policy they choose regarding the carriage of pets and other animals (for example, search and rescue dogs) provided that they comply with other applicable requirements (for example, the Animal Welfare Act).

Animals such as miniature horses, pigs, and monkeys may be considered service animals. A carrier must decide on a case-by-case basis according to factors such as the animal̥s size and weight; state and foreign country restrictions; whether or not the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others; or cause a fundamental alteration in the cabin service.  Individuals should contact the airlines ahead of travel to find out what is permitted.

Airlines are not required to transport unusual animals such as snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders. Foreign carriers are not required to transport animals other than dogs. [40]

Handlers responsibilities under the ADA

The handler is responsible for the care and supervision of his or her service animal. If a service animal behaves in an unacceptable way and the person with a disability does not control the animal, a business or other entity does not have to allow the animal onto its premises. Uncontrolled barking, jumping on other people, or running away from the handler are examples of unacceptable behavior for a service animal. A business has the right to deny access to a dog that disrupts their business. For example, a service dog that barks repeatedly and disrupts another patron̥s enjoyment of a movie could be asked to leave the theater. Businesses, public programs, and transportation providers may exclude a service animal when the animal̥s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. If a service animal is growling at other shoppers at a grocery store, the handler may be asked to remove the animal.

The ADA requires the animal to be under the control of the handler.  This can occur using a harness, leash, or other tether.  However, in cases where either the handler is unable to hold a tether because of a disability or its use would interfere with the service animal̥s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, the service animal must be under the handler̥s control by some other means, such as voice control.

  • The animal must be housebroken.
  • The ADA does not require covered entities to provide for the care or supervision of a service animal, including cleaning up after the animal.
  • The animal should be vaccinated in accordance with state and local laws.
  • An entity may also assess the type, size, and weight of a miniature horse in determining whether or not the horse will be allowed access to the facility. [40]

References

[1] Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals. (2014). Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet
[2] Service Animals. (2011, July). Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

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