One of the confusing issues out there is the difference between a service dog, emotional support animal, and a therapy dog and why it matters. 28 C.F.R. § 35.104 and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104 (the sections of the federal regulation that apply to service animals for public entities and for places of public accommodations respectively), both define service animal in the same way. Under those regulations, a service animal is any dog 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. 28 C.F.R. § 35.104 and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104. The work or task performed by the service animal has to be directly related to the handler’s disability. Id. The regulations go on to give examples of what such work or tasks may include. According to the regulations, such work or tasks may include but is 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 are sounds; providing nonviolent protection or rescue work; pulling a wheelchair; assisting an individual during a seizure; alerting an individual 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 disability by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. Id. Very importantly, for purposes of this particular blog entry, the regulations go on to say that, “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.” Id. (emphasis added).

Before moving on further, a couple of points are in order. First, while not specifically listed in the definition of a service animal, in a separate section of the regulations, miniature horses get protection. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.136(i) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(9) (the Department of Justice regulations pertaining to the inclusion of miniature horses with respect to title II and title III entities respectively). Second, this blog entry is specifically focused on the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Department of Justice regulations. Other laws out there, such as the fair housing act, have different statutory provisions and regulations that may also impact on the situation. Nevertheless, I do not address those here.

28 C.F.R. § 35.136(f) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(6) (the sections of the regulations that apply to the inquiry that may be made of service animal by public entities and places of public accommodations respectively), both limit the inquiries that can be made when someone shows up with an animal at the public entity or at the place of public accommodation. The inquiries they can make are whether the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. 28 C.F.R. § 35.136(f) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(6). However, those inquiries cannot be made if it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Id.

So here’s the problem. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs must be allowed into the place of public accommodation or into the public entity. However, dogs that are not working or providing a task, as the Department of Justice sees it, but are there to keep the person with a disability calm, are not protected by this regulation because those animals are providing emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship rather than are working or performing a task for the handler. The other problem is that the ADA is not the only law in play. For example, the Fair Housing Act and HUD’s interpretation of the FHA does allow for emotional support animals.

All of this leads to the following. First, if a public entity or a place of public accommodation is faced with the situation where a person shows up with a dog and wants to take it into the public entity or a place of public accommodation and it is not obvious that the dog is performing work or a task for the handler, the public entity or the place of public accommodation can make the inquiries noted above. However, since the inquiries are limited, making the inquiries may not be terribly helpful. For example, if the person with a disability is knowledgeable enough about the distinction between service dogs and emotional support, the person with a disability may very well phrase their response in terms of the dog performing work or a task even though the dog is in fact a dog providing emotional support and not a service dog. At that point in time, the public entity or place of public accommodation is in a very difficult position. In such a situation, will the public entity or place of public accommodation really pick up the phone and ask the appropriate person, preferably legal counsel, whether the response the person with a disability gave them was in fact a dog performing work? Maybe, such a person would; it is certainly not practical. All this does serve to state the need for training of personnel when dealing with these situations.

The other thing that all this does is set up a situation where a person may sue under laws that do allow for emotional support dogs and completely ignore the ADA. That is exactly what happened in United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney, 2013 WL 1694603 (D. Neb. April 19, 2013). In that case, the Department of Justice brought suit on behalf of a person who enrolled at the University and wanted to stay in a dormitory with her therapy dog (the court refers to the dog as a therapy dog, but in actuality it may have been a service animal). The University denied the request. As a result, after a few weeks, the plaintiff withdrew from classes and moved out of the dormitory. The Department of Justice filed suit under the Fair Housing Act and sought summary judgment for the principle that the Fair Housing Act applied to the dormitory.

The University argued that a dormitory was not a dwelling under the Fair Housing Act since no residence was involved. However, the court was having none of it for several reasons. First, it noted that courts have said that the ordinary meaning of the word residence refers to a temporary or permanent dwelling place, abode, or habitation to which a person intends to return and is not a temporary sojourn or transient visit. In other words, the court said, a house, apartment, condominium or co-op that you reside in is a residence, but the hotel you stay in while you are on vacation is not.

Second, students in a dormitory do all the things that they would do as if they were in a place called home.

Third, while a temporary sojourn or transient visit would not be a residence, a resident can be temporary or permanent.

Fourth, a person lives in a dormitory in university housing for extended period of time that is very similar to many other residential living situations.

Fifth, courts have held that housing provided for migrant workers are residences within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act.

Sixth, the court noted that the particular place that the plaintiff’s particular dormitory was actually less seasonal than students in other university housing (the “dormitory,” was off-campus and more like apartments than they were traditional dormitories).

Seventh, the court said that the university making the analogy to a jail simply didn’t hold up because in the context of the university, freedom of choice as to where to live was involved, which is not the case with a jail, and that also just because they are residing in a dormitory as part of the educational process, does not fundamentally change the nature of the dormitory being a residence.

Eighth, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s own regulations specifically talk about a dormitory being a dwelling and since those regulations were properly promulgated and consistent with the statute that the Department of Fair Housing and Urban Development was implementing, those regulations were persuasive.

I read that the University Nebraska Kearney was considering this opinion and deciding whether they should appeal. As this particular decision seems to be pretty strong in its reasoning even though it is a case of first impression, it will be interesting to see whether the University does in fact appeal.

To summarize: service dogs, therapy dogs (a dog that provides therapy for others and does not perform work or tasks for the handler), and emotional support animals (a dog that just by being there provides emotional support to its owner), are not the same thing. Also, it would be wise for a public entity and a place of public accommodation to conduct trainings so that staff members are aware of the difference between a service dog, a therapy dog, and an emotional support animal so they know how to handle situations when a dog shows up. Also, that training would need to discuss permissible inquiries and how to deal with the information gleaned from those inquiries. Finally, especially if you are responsible for dwellings as the term would be understood by the Fair Housing Act, don’t assume that you can do stand behind the service animal definition under the ADA. Other laws, such as the Fair Housing Act, and for now anyway, the Air Carrier Access Act, may go quite further than the ADA.

56 Responses to Service Dogs v. Emotional Support Animals

In reality, the lines are very unclear for most people (i.e., non-attorneys) to know the difference between a service animal for a psychiatric disability and a therapy dog.

A man walks into a hotel with a dog. Personnel inquire, he responds that the dog is trained to “ground” him during an episode. Is the man a veteran with a service animal trained to ground him during an episode related to PTSD? Or is it a man whose wife recently died who has a therapy dog to help him deal with profound (but not disabling) grief? This is where, in my opinion, there is little practical distinction between service v. therapy animal, and, frankly, not much the hotel (or an entity covered under title II or III) can do without risking a complaint.

I quite agree. What all this does is create a situation of form over substance. For example, the term, “grounded” doesn’t suggest to me either working or performing a task. On the other hand, if the person with a disability had said “when y situation arises, my dog will step in and do x,” then that’s strongly suggest a task or a dog working. On a practical level, I can’t see how a business can work with this. Nevertheless, this is the way the law is set up. On a preventive level, it would be better to ask the questions that the regulations allow just to keep the person honest so to speak. Then, regardless of the answer, allow for the dog.

What does the regulation say under the Fair Housing Amendments Act in terms of qualifying a service/therapy dog versus a pet? Do they require some sort of medical justification for the animal? Just curious. Everyone can say their animal is a comfort, companion or therapy dog…

Actually, in the DOJ’s 2011 Final Rule, they spoke specifically on grounding as an acceptable form of work that a service dog might do. The key, which most people do not understand, is that the dog and handler must work together; it is not something that the dog simply does on its own. Another key specifically stated by the DOJ is “recognition and response” which means that the dog must recognize that the handler is having problems and respond to them — in other words, the handler cannot say the dog grounds him/her when the dog is paying attention to something across the street.

I like your last piece of advice; that is, allow for the dog. Unless the dog is clearly out of control or misbehaving who needs an argument over whether it is a real service dog or merely a therapy dog? What the ADA does that really helps business owners is limit service animals to dogs in most cases. No doubt some other patrons will be distressed by the presence of a dog, but we are all used to the seeing eye dog as a necessary aid to the blind, so in most cases a well trained animal on a leash won’t create a stir. Monkeys, cats, ferrets and other animals that might qualify as therapy animals under the FHA are a different matter.

In response to the question from Dolores. Only those with disabilities can take advantage of the FHA’s reasonable accomodation policy for therapy animals. You can ask for evidence of the disability and that the animal is related to the disability if it is not obvious. A blind person’s seeing eye dog is obvious. A depressed person’s companion animal may not be. Once you have evidence of the disability and the animal’s therapeutic purpose it is not a pet, so no pet deposit or special pet rules. However, the animal cannot be any more disruptive or destructive than a tenant could be. If that becomes an issue you’ll need a lawyer to sort out all the nuances.

If you are involved in property management and plan to attend the TAA Expo in Houston this week I’ll be speaking on this and related issues in the Friday morning seminar sessions.

There is another wrinkle. Let’s say you own a restaurant. A person with a service dog, clearly a service dog, comes into your restaurant. The manager completely flips out and tells the person to leave in violation of the ADA. The person refuses to leave and tries to reason with the manager I calmly explaining his rights. The manager calls the police. The policeman comes out and tells the person that is a private establishment and that he has to leave. The person tries to explain to the policeman his rights under the ADA but the policeman still insist that he leave the premises. The person does leaves and sues the employer of the policeman for violation of the ADA. Does the plaintiff have a cause of action against the policeman’s employer? These were actually the facts in Gipson v. Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits, _F. Supp. 2d_, 2013 WL 1737208 (N.D. Ga. April 22, 2013). The court said no such case existed against the policeman’s employer, Cobb County (Metropolitan Atlanta area), because the policeman, while wrong on the law, did not exercise any bias in carrying out his obligations even if he was wrong on the substance. The court said that is not the policeman’s job to be able to sort out the law so long as he goes about carrying out his obligations in a nondiscriminatory way.

Many policeman are lawyers as well. I wonder if the policeman was a lawyer if this same argument would still apply.

This just in. The fair housing act take on service dogs.

HUD No. 13-060A
Shantae Goodloe
(202) 708-0685 FOR RELEASE
Tuesday
April 30, 2013
HUD ISSUES NOTICE ON ASSISTANCE ANIMALS AND REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today issued a notice reaffirming that housing providers must provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities who require assistance animals. The “Notice on Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-Funded Programs” discusses how the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) intersect regarding the use of service or assistance animals by persons with disabilities.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating based on disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and familial status. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and state and local government activities. Both laws contain provisions which address the use of service or assistance animals by people with disabilities. While the Fair Housing Act covers nearly all types of housing, some types of housing, such as public housing, are covered by both laws.
“The vital importance of assistance animals in reducing barriers, promoting independence, and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities should not be underestimated, particularly in the home,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Disability-related complaints, including those that involve assistance animals, are the most common discrimination complaint we receive. This notice will help housing providers better understand and meet their obligation to grant reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities that require assistance animals to fully use and enjoy their housing.”
HUD’s new notice explains housing providers’ obligations under the Fair Housing Act, including the requirement to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities who require assistance animals. Pet restrictions cannot be used to deny or limit housing to people with disabilities who require the use of an assistance animal because of their disability. Housing providers must grant reasonable accommodations in such instances, in accordance with the law. The guidance also describes the Department of Justice’s revised definition of “service animal” under the ADA, as well as housing providers’ obligations when multiple nondiscrimination laws apply.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires equal access for people with disabilities using trained service dogs in public accommodations and government facilities. Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers have a further obligation to accommodate people with disabilities who, because of their disability, require trained service dogs or other types of assistance animals to perform tasks, provide emotional support, or alleviate the effects of their disabilities.
HUD’s and the Department of Justice’s Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodations provides additional information regarding housing providers’ obligations to provide reasonable accommodations. The Department of Justice has also published a fact sheet on service animals and the ADA.
Click here to read HUD’s new notice.
Persons who believe they have been denied a reasonable accommodation request may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to http://www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
###
HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.
HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the
need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build
inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business.
More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at http://www.hud.gov and
http://espanol.hud.gov. You can also follow HUD on twitter @HUDnews, on facebook at
http://www.facebook.com/HUD, or sign up for news alerts on HUD’s News Listserv

Kenneth Shiotani
Senior Staff Attorney
National Disability Rights Network
900 Second Street NE, Suite 211
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 408-9514 x 126 voice
(202) 408-9520 Fax
(202) 408-9521 TTY
Kenneth.Shiotani@ndrn.org
http://www.ndrn.org

Nice discussion of a difficult subject. I just finished writing a service/assistance animal policy for a client apartment complex and it wasn’t easy to put the law in the kind of concrete terms that an apartment manager needs, especially when he or she has to contend with the fact that the lobby and public areas are also ADA public accomodations.

http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/article/317159/8/Assistant-principal-denied-service-dog-at-school

the above is a link to a situation where an assistant principal in Florida is being denied the use of her dog to help her deal with post traumatic stress. The school says that the dog is not a service dog, but rather a therapy dog. As we have discussed here, that difference makes all the difference in the world per DOJ regulations. Since the regulations have gone through the rulemaking process, it would be extremely difficult for those regulations to be overturned. You would have to argue either that the regulations are arbitrary and capricious or that they make new law rather than carry out existing law. Since this is an employment matter, challenging the regulation and/or the school on equal protection grounds would also be very difficult since with respect to employment matters, people with disabilities are in the rational basis class.

On a policy level, it probably makes sense for the distinction to be dropped in favor of ensuring a regimen of training regardless of whether the dog is being used for physical and mental disabilities.

A psychiatric condition can amount to a disability under the ADA, including PTSD (as so many veterans are experiencing), and the dog would be a service animal. Not very due diligent of me to comment prior to reading the article but I don’t see what basis the school has.

Maybe another argument for the employee is under the Title I Employment Reasonable Accommodations requirements. The burden would be for “undue hardship.”

The school district “determined” it was a therapy- versus service animal. Whose determination is that to make?

Great catch Julie!!!!!

Julie has caught the point, that EEOC and DOJ are different animals, pun intended. This stuff about service dogs versus therapy dogs is a DOJ thing and not an EEOC thing. Accordingly, this case now takes on a different hue and my stance has now changed accordingly.

Thanks Julie!!

On my list of things to do, is to explore whether the DOJ regulations violate the equal protection rights of persons with mental illness that use service dogs. Or, alternatively, whether the DOJ regulations that separate out therapy dogs from service dogs exceed their rulemaking authority. Stay tuned for that!

Richard’s blog entries are always provocative. His analysis is always excellent, though I don’t always agree. With respect to this particular blog entry of his, I do want to offer a different perspective with regard to one of the points that he makes.. In his blog entry, he mentions that under the fair housing act it is permissible for a landlord to ask whether there is a disability related need for an assistance animal and that it seemed reasonable that the need be associated with the effect of a disability on the major life activities it substantially limits. What follows is where I think a different perspective can be offered and also might want to be considered. That is, Richard mentions that the major life activity associated with depression may be the ability to work. That may be the case, but there may be many other major life activities involved as well. For example, using the major life activities specifically mentioned by the ADAAA other possible life activities that could be substantially limited by depression include caring for oneself, concentrating, and thinking. Depression also may substantially limit neurological and brain activities as well. Therefore, it may be possible that a therapy dog may relate to the major life activities associated with depression such as caring for oneself, concentrating, thinking, and helping with neurological and brain activities even if the person is on medication.

Just want to give people something else to think about. Richard’s blog entry is first rate, but I thought another perspective on these points might be helpful.

http://m.ksat.com/news/new-law-clarifies-use-of-service-dogs-for-ptsd-sufferers/-/15126192/21039120/-/j2atxvz/-/index.html

the above is a link to an article talking about how California has just enacted a law patterned after the Department of Justice regulation with respect to what a business owner can ask when a person shows up at a place of business with their service dog. My only concern is that the regulations implementing the statute try and make the very difficult distinction that the Department of Justice makes in their regulation between therapy dogs in service dogs.

There seems to be some confusion here about therapy animals, emotional support animals, and service dogs.

Emotional support animals =/= therapy animals. ESAs provide comfort to their disabled handlers. They do not need certification or training beyond what would be required for a pet. They can be any species or breed, and their only legal standing is to be allowed in no pets housing and to be allowed in cabin when flying.

Therapy animals, on the other hand, are animals that visit hospitals, nursing homes, etc., to bring joy and comfort to the residents there. They serve the public, NOT their handlers. They have no legal standing federally, although a few states do grant them special access with their handlers. Generally speaking, therapy animals are certified and are identified by a special tag, ID card, and/or vest. While there are some there are not certified, most facilities will not allow uncertified therapy dogs because of liability and insurance issues. Therapy dogs must have special training to ensure that they are well behaved.

Service dogs are dogs that are specially trained to mitigate their handler’s disability. It doesn’t matter what causes the disability, only that the handler has one. Someone commented earlier about someone having a service dog for non-disabling, situation grief — it doesn’t work that way. You MUST have a disability in order to have a service dog. Service dogs can do work or tasks, but they must actively do something, as opposed to just providing comfort. Service dogs do not need to be certified or even identified. Unruly, dirty, or misbehaving service dogs can (and should!) be kicked out, but remember that service dogs are dogs and not robots — they can have bad days too.

Companion animals are pets, and obviously have no special legal standing.

With all the incorrect information and terminology floating around out there, it can really make my life as a service dog handler harder.

Thanks for replying this is all very helpful information. A general point that I was trying to make was that the line between recognition and response can be very small.

Great comment here and thanks for contributing!

Whew. I was so glad someone pointed this out. I have a service dog and yes I do have a disability. I’ve had to educate myself to what I can and cannot do with my dog. One of the first things I usually have to explain to people is that he is NOT a therapy dog (or an ESA for that matter.)

http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Boy-With-Cerebral-Palsy-Cant-Take-Service-Dog-to-School-220047831.html

the above is a link to a story involving a five year old child with cerebral palsy where the school issued a letter to the mother saying that a service dog would not be allowed unless they could prove that the dog had insurance. The family could not afford the insurance. From the article, it seems the school, as it should be, is backtracking on this.

Lately, I have been seeing several news articles that talk about the ADA making it a federal crime to impersonate someone with a disability so that the person could bring their pet into the place of public accommodation. The reference struck me as odd since the ADA is a civil statute and not a criminal statute. I have done some digging, and I’ve been unable to find how it is a federal crime to impersonate a person with a disability. That said, there are states that make it a misdemeanor to impersonate a person with a disability (Tennessee and Arkansas for example).

http://www.bigcountryhomepage.com/story/texas-businesses-prep-for-new-service-dog-regulations/d/story/Dm8pSU-Q0Eu7ktAAvyGMZg

the above is a link to what just has happened in Texas regarding service dogs. The text of the law can be found at the link below.

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/83R/billtext/pdf/HB00489F.pdf#navpanes=0

when I get a chance to thoroughly read this legislation, I will definitely post some thoughts, either here or in a new entry.

http://accessdefense.com/2014/08/26/disability-and-handicap-are-not-the-same-and-it-matters/

my good friend and colleague, Richard Hunt, latest blog entry talks about how the fair housing act and the Americans with Disabilities Act/Rehabilitation Act define disability (the fair housing act uses the term, handicap) differently from each other and what that might mean for a person seeking to be covered under the fair housing act so that they could use an animal not be otherwise covered by the ADA.

We have a rental home available. It’s advertised as a “no pets” rental. A disabled man saw the ad and came to see it twice before telling us he wanted it. He then told us he had a “therapy dog” and he could provide a certificate for it. My question is “can’t anyone say their dog is a therapy dog? I’ve found that you can get ANY certifications that you choose for your dog online –that includes: vests, ID cards, collars, etc. He did not have his dog with him when he met with us so I assume the dog is not needed for any life threatening problem. The man is clearly mobility-challenged and on disability and says that the dog helps to “calm his palpitations”.
The man is welcome in our rental home but I cannot see the purpose of the dog though I haven’t told him that yet. We are all so afraid of not being politically correct or getting sued these days we leave ourselves open to fraud.
He admitted he leaves the dog home alone at times and puts a “puppy pad on the floor for him to pee on while he’s away”. This sounds like he has no real attachment (need) and no caring for this cute little dog.
How do I proceed?

How does this affect Vacation Rental owners/property managers that have a no dog policy? While for us it is a non-issue (we are dog-friendly) many of my associates have great concerns regarding opening up their homes to someone with a dog and then having to suffer the problem of those following them who may be allergic to the dog. Others are concerned that they are “faking it” or manipulating the law to allow Fido in on the vacation with the family.

Fair questions and you always want to have an individual legal analysis done. That said, this particular scenario would not implicate the ADA at all, but rather the fair housing act. Under the fair housing act, both service dogs and therapy dogs are allowed. The fair housing act gives you somewhat broader authority, though that broader authority is not unlimited, to seek out information substantiating the need for the dog than the ADA does.

I did try to contact you at the email left when you filled out the contact form. However, it bounced back to me. Is there another way, different email perhaps, to reach you?

In all of the hullabaloo regarding service dogs, one of the implicit assumptions is that the Department of Justice regulations are completely unworkable for businesses. For a dissenting view (i.e. with common sense, the regulations can be applied and businesses and persons with disabilities can both be protected), see this blog entry http://juliemillslaw.com/businesses-can-spot-true-service-animals/ (full disclosure: Julie is the treasurer of the national Association of attorneys with disabilities, http://naadblog.com/ , of which I am president).

On Thursday, September 3, 2015, the Department of Justice announced that the case discussed in the main blog entry above has settled. Terms of the settlement include: paying $140,000 to two former students who sought and were denied reasonable accommodation to keep assistance animals in the University Apartments; and requiring the school to change its housing policy to allow persons with psychological disability to keep animals with them in university housing where such animals provide necessary therapeutic benefits to the student.

The press release can be found here:

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-and-university-nebraska-kearney-settle-lawsuits-over-rights-students

Wondering if anyone can give me any insight on how this issue would pertain to a university health care setting. We recently had a patient who was a child and her mother came into the operatory with her and had a dog with her. When asked if the dog was a service animal, her reply was “Yes, she goes to help elderly people” Obviously, this is more of a therapy dog than a service dog. My concern is that she answered “Yes” even though what she clearly stated is not the exact definition. Where do you draw the line or is it easy to just continue to allow the animal as long as it is not being disruptive. This is a University setting and we are more concerned with legalities in the long run.

Thanks for posting!

I have seen many a business take the easy way out and continue to allow the animal as long it is not being disruptive, which you don’t have to do even if it is a service dog. That said, a true service dog would rarely, if ever, be disruptive. The first thing here is that the wrong question was asked. The Department of Justice regulations only permit two permissible questions: whether the animal is required because of a disability; and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. Further, under these same regulations, those inquiries cannot be made if it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (for example, it is usually pretty obvious when an individual is using a seeing-eye dog).

In this situation, you can’t assume that the dog was a therapy dog because the right questions weren’t asked. Assuming the right question was asked, the key is going to be the second question, which focuses on whether the dog engages in recognition and response.

Of course, none of this is a substitute for legal advice, but if you are in need of that, feel free to give me a call.

A therapy dog handler is not given public access rights by any service dog laws to take the dog out everywhere like service dog users, because the handler does not have a disability the dog is individually trained to mitigate. ..

A Service Dog is specially trained for a specific person’s needs. Service dogs can go anywhere that their handler goes – into stores, on public transportation, etc. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service dogs and their access to public spaces. Therapy Dogs are invited into a facility or event to provide therapy to people other than their handler. They go into nursing homes, hospitals, pediatric facilities, and schools to provide therapy and education to the patients and students.

I didn’t know that a service dog had to be directly related to the owners’ disability. My daughter is blind and we are wanting to get our dog certified as her service animal. I’ll have to look into finding the best place in our area that can work with us to get her the certification.

With respect to service dogs, the ADA does not require any kind of certification. The key is whether the dog has been trained to engage in recognition and response. Of course, there are organizations that train dogs to be service dogs and the training is quite extensive. At the end of that training, you do receive documentation certifying completion of that training. However, that is a different kettle of fish than certification per se. While businesses are not supposed to ask about certification of a service dog per the ADA final implementing regulations, people with disabilities often find it helpful to have the certification so to speak on them so that they can furnish it when asked.

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