SERVICE ANIMAL INFORMATION
What Is A Service Animal?
Service animals are animals that have been individually trained to perform a specific task for individuals who have disabilities. The disabilities can vary greatly, and so do the tasks that the service animal perform. Service animals can aid in navigation for people who are hearing and visually impaired, assist an individual who is having a seizure, calm an individual who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and even dial 911 in the event of an emergency. Many disabled individuals depend on them every day to help them live their everyday lives.
Service animals are protected under federal law
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an individual with a disability is entitled to a service dog to help them live their lives normally. The ADA protects disabled individuals by allowing them to bring their service animals with them to most places that the public is permitted, including restaurants, hotels, housing complexes, and even in air travel. Any animal can be a service animal, and service animals do not have to be professionally trained. The important thing is that the animal is trained to be a working animal and not a pet.
Identifying service animals for the public
Service animals are often identified by wearing a service animal vest or tag, letting the public know that it is a service animal; otherwise, their handlers will find themselves having to explain everywhere that they go that their animal is a service animal. Some businesses, such as airlines, prefer to see an identification card or vest that indicates that the animal is a service animal.
The Americans with Disabilities Act has a specific definition of a disability, and it states essentially that a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.
List of Disabilities
A disability can take many forms, including bodily functions such as those of the neurological, respiratory, digestive, circulatory, and reproductive systems.
Here is a list of some disabilities that individuals may have that may be helped by having a service dog:
- Mobility Issues (Including Paralysis)
- Sensory Issues (Blindness, Hearing Loss, etc.)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Bone and Skeletal (Such as Osteoporosis, Scoliosis, etc.)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Do you have a Disability?
If you are limited in your ability to perform major life tasks such as seeing, hearing, standing, walking, eating, sleeping, thinking, speaking, or other similar tasks, then you likely have a disability that would make you eligible to have a service dog under ADA laws. The service dog helps you in performing the particular tasks that you would otherwise be unable to perform without the service dog.
Your Disability and Public Knowledge
You are NOT allowed to be asked by an owner, manager, or other representative of a business what your disability is that allows you to have a service animal. That information is private and you do not have to disclose it to anyone if you are asked. The only information that may be asked is if it is a service animal, and what tasks the service animal is trained to perform for you. For example, if you have a mental illness that requires that you take medication and your service animal is trained to alert you when it is time to take your medication by tugging at your shirt, then you may explain the task your service animal performs, but you are not obligated to divulge the nature of your illness or disability.
Living With Your Service Animal
ADA law gives individuals the right to live with their service animal regardless of any building or residences with a no pet policy. A service animal is not considered a pet and is required for daily life functions and activities. Building managers or landlords may not refuse your service animal nor may they require you to submit any pet deposits or fees for your service animal.
Hotels fall under the same policy as well. They are not permitted to deny access to you or your service animal and may not charge any extra fees or collect any deposits.