Overview of Service Animals


>>ANN DESCHAMPS: Welcome to a conversation
about service animals. My name is Ann Deschamps and I am joined by
Nancy Horton. We are from the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center and
together we are going to talk about what the Americans with Disabilities Act says about
service animals. We know the ADA is a comprehensive piece of
civil rights legislation. Nancy, can you start by telling us where service
animals fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act?>>NANCY HORTON: Yes, thanks, Ann. Today our focus is going to be on how the
ADA addresses service animals, by addressing the policies, practices, and procedures of
state and local government agencies which are covered under title two of the ADA, and
public accommodations which are a variety of private businesses that offer goods and
services to the public and which are covered under title three of the ADA. Now these entities that are covered under
title two or title three have an obligation to make reasonable modifications in their
policies, practices, and procedures in order to ensure equal opportunities for people with
disabilities.>>ANN DESCHAMPS: Okay, so what is a service
animal? How is this term defined in the law?>>NANCY HORTON: Well that’s a great question. There actually are two definitions under these
two titles of the ADA. The US Department of Transportation or DOT
defines service animals in their regulations which apply within vehicles and facilities
of transportation services covered by title two or title three. So this would apply in public transit systems
or within a private transportation service provider. And DOT’s definition is any guide dog, signal
dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual
with a disability. Now the Department of Justice or DOJ has a
definition of service animals in their regulations as well and their regulations apply to all
other types of businesses and agencies covered under title two or title three. So anything other than a transportation provider
would be covered by DOJ’s regulations and they define a service animal as any dog that
has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual
with a disability and any types of animals, whether they are wild animals or domestic
animals, whether they are trained or not trained, do not meet this definition of DOJ’s. Now Department of Justice, DOJ, also has a
specific provision in their regulations that requires covered entities to make reasonable
policy modifications to allow individuals with disabilities to use trained miniature
horses. They are subject to certain additional considerations,
however, that dogs would not be subject to, such as consideration of the miniature horse’s
size and weight.>>ANN DESCHAMPS: Got it. Thank you. So service animals have to be trained to perform
a task for a person with a disability. What kind of tasks are we referring to here?>>NANCY HORTON: Well service animals can
be trained to do a wide variety of tasks and work for people with disabilities and here
are a few examples. Providing physical support and help with balance
and stability for people with mobility disabilities or unsteady gaits. Guiding individuals who are blind or have
low vision. This is a very traditional service that a
lot of people are familiar with. Providing nonviolent protection or rescue
work, pulling wheel chairs, retrieving items for individuals, alerting individuals who
are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, helping people with psychiatric or neurological disabilities
by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors, and even alerting individuals
to oncoming seizures.>>ANN DESCHAMPS: Okay, Nancy. So how would an animal be trained to alert
an individual to seizures?>>NANCY HORTON: Well that is a great question. I mean, animals can be trained to alert people
through a variety of behaviors. They can be trained to paw people, nudge people,
and position themselves in specific ways or apply pressure to people to alert them to
things that they are trained to perceive. So that is a great question. And animals have to be trained, you know,
including miniature horses or any type of animal that is a service animal must be trained
to perform specific actions, tasks, or work. A lot of animals – many animals do provide
comfort or companionship or emotional support or other benefits for people with disabilities
simply by being present, but they aren’t trained to do it anything specific in support
of a disability and these are not service animals under title two or title three of
the ADA. They may be covered by other laws such as
the Fair Housing Act, the Air Carrier Access Act, or state laws.>>ANN DESCHAMPS: Okay, so the difference
between a service animal and an emotional support animal is that a service animal is
trained to perform a specific task for a person with a disability whereas an emotional support
animal is not trained to perform a specific task and may just provide comfort by their
presence. Is that right?>>NANCY HORTON: Exactly.>>ANN DESCHAMPS: Okay. Moving on, Nancy, my understanding is that
the ADA states that you can ask two questions to an individual with a service animal about
their service animal. What are those two questions?>>NANCY HORTON: That is exactly right. Covered entities can ask two and only two
questions. If a person is accompanied by a dog or a miniature
horse or another type of animal if it is a transportation setting, if it is not obvious
what the animal is doing in service of the person with a disability, the covered entity
can ask is this a service animal required because of a disability? And what work or task has the animal been
trained to perform? And that is really all they can ask. They can’t ask additional information. They can’t ask for documents, certificates,
any kind of proof, demonstrations, or any details about either the individual’s disability
or the animal’s status or training. And this is very important. A lot of service animals do wear identifying
gear, harnesses, vests, other items that have insignia or ID badges and things that identify
them as service animals, but these are not required. It is important to remember that these kinds
of certificates and documentation and things really cannot be required.>>ANN DESCHAMPS: What happens – and I am
sure a lot of people ask this. The first question that pops into my mind
is what happens if a service animal starts behaving inappropriately?>>NANCY HORTON: Well that is a good question. I mean, covered entities, agency, and business
operators certainly have some reasonable expectations that they can expect from service animal handlers. The care and supervision of a service animal
is always the responsibility of the owner or the handler of the animal. It is not the responsibility of the covered
entity. And service animals must be under control. They must be housebroken. They must be well behaved. Service animals can be excluded if they are
out of control or if they pose a direct threat to health or safety. So businesses and agencies can expect service
animals to be well behaved. They shouldn’t be jumping on people and
running around or doing any kind of threatening behavior or even wandering unsupervised, wandering
around aimlessly. People can be asked to remove animals under
circumstances like that. Now we do want to just touch a little bit
on state or local laws because there are a lot of state or local laws that address animals
and service animal issues and sometimes they are different and so we want to underscore
that if state or local laws conflict with ADA provisions, then whatever provisions are
better for individuals with disabilities is what has to be followed. Individuals get the best of what is available
to them. So we have a few examples here to sort of
illustrate that. On the left of this slide here, you see a
couple of examples where the ADA is better than a state or local law. For example, under the ADA, a service dog
could be any breed or size of dog. So if there were a state or local law that
prohibited or restricted ownership of bulldogs for example, the ADA would override that for
an individual who had a service dog of that breed. They would – they would need to be allowed
to have that. Another example is under the ADA, as we have
talked about, service dogs can’t be required to have certificates of their training or
their status. So if there were a state or local law where
a certification was required, the ADA would override that. On the other hand, on the other side of our
slide here, we see a couple of examples where state law is better for people with disabilities
and will take precedence. And this first example is a really common
one. A lot of states have laws which recognize
service animals in training and require a business and agency operators to allow service
animal trainers to bring onto the premises the dogs that they are training, where under
the ADA, service dogs must be fully trained. Another example is for example if a state
or local law would allow people to use any kind of an animal as a service animal, where
under the ADA other than in transportation services, animals are limited to dogs or potentially
miniature horses. That is an example where the state law is
better for the person and therefore that would have to be followed in that state.>>ANN DESCHAMPS: Thank you, Nancy. Where can people go to get more information?>>NANCY HORTON: There are some great resources
available. On this slide we are just showing a couple
of images of a couple of documents that the Department of Justice has about service animals,
their service animal fact sheet and their frequently asked questions about service animals. They are really helpful documents. Both the US Department of Justice and the
US Department of Transportation, specifically the Federal Transit Administration which as
we have discussed, regulates the title two and title three and the different parts of
it there, have lots of great information on their – on their websites that folks can
visit. So that is a great start for finding more
information.>>ANN DESCHAMPS: Great. Thank you so much, Nancy. This concludes our conversation about service
animals. I can imagine you may have questions about
specific situations or just about service animals in general. The ADA National Network is at your service. You can dial our 800 number, 1-800-949-4232
anywhere in the United States and you will get connected to the center that serves the
state that you are calling from where there are experts available to talk you through
specific scenarios and answer questions. And we encourage you to use us as a resource. We are the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center. We serve Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania,
Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. We are operated by TransCen and again, I would
like to thank you, Nancy, for joining us today and to talk about service animals. And we really appreciate it and we hope everybody
has a great day. Thank you.

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