The Commission speaks with a number of callers about service and assistance animals, what constitutes one or the other, and what the law requires. This month I bring you information on this subject in hopes it assists with the vast confusion around the subject of service and assistance animals. - Karen Richards
Did you know? Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs and in some instances, miniature horses, are recognized as service animals under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service animals are allowed in all areas where the public is normally allowed to go in State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public. Otherwise known as places of “Public Accommodation.” There are only two questions staff may ask when it is not obvious what service an animal provides: 1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and 2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? There are NO certifications or registration requirements by law for service animals. Nor is it required that a service animal wear any collar, vest or otherwise indicating same. An assistance animal is allowed in housing and is not restricted to dogs. Assistance animals are regulated by the Fair Housing Act and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). An assistance animal can be any animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.