Monday, June 5, 2017

Word of the Month for June 2017: Service Animal

No bad dogs, just bad people
I gotta wonder what some people think about when they wake up in the morning.  Specifically, I'm talking about the people who come into my library looking to pick a fight with a Law Librarian. 

Take, for example, the Lady who came in the other day.  Seems she has a dog that she doesn't like to leave in her hot car - so she brings it everywhere she goes.  The problem is that like our Library, not all businesses just let you bring your dog/animals into their place of business.  To get around that, Lady started claiming that her dog was a "SERVICE ANIMAL."

According to Black's Law Dictionary, a SERVICE ANIMAL (aka service dog) is:
a dog trained to assist a disabled person with everyday tasks of living and alert the person to threats.  A service dog may be identified by the type of disability it's trained for.  Also termed assistance dog; guide dog; seeing-eye dog; hearing-ear dog.
The problem is that Lady is standing in front of me demanding to see the law that requires that her dog be a "Service Dog."  So, I did a little digging.  First, I started looking in the United States Code Annotated, Title 40 Section 3103 and Title 38 Section 1714.  Title 40 referred me to title 29 USC 794 (Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and 28 CFR Part 39 (non-discrimination based on handicap).  For the record, "CFR" stands for Code of Federal Regulations.

After a little reading (well, a little for me), I found references to 28 CFR 35 (part 2 of the ADA) and 28 CFR 36 (part 3 of the ADA).  Then I stumbled upon 28 CFR 36.104 which states that:
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.  Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.

The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability....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.
So, what does all this mean?  
  • First, just because it's a dog, does not make it a "SERVICE ANIMAL."  
  • Second, if the only reason you want to bring your animal into a place of business is because it comforts you, it's not a "service animal" and can be denied entrance.  
  • Third, if you do not want your dog/animal to swelter in a hot car, get used to leaving it at home because unless it is an animal that is trained to service a particular task as it relates to a particular person's disability, then the business owner does NOT have to let that animal in their front door.  
Another thing to note is that there is a difference between a SERVICE ANIMAL and an Emotional Support Animal ("ESA").  Where a SERVICE ANIMAL can accompany its owner most anywhere, an ESA designation only allows said animal:
  1. To fly with their emotionally or psychologically disabled handler in a cabin of an aircraft (under The Air Carrier Access Act of 1990), and
  2. To qualify for no-pet housing (under The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988)
In fact, an ESA pet has no more rights than any other pet. Oh, and if someone does bring an animal to your place of business and says it's a "SERVICE ANIMAL," you can legally ask what its specific task is (and point them to 28 CFR 36.104 if they put up a fight or threaten an ADA lawsuit).

Of course, by the time I came up with all of this useful information, Lady had threatened lawsuits, vowed she would be vindicated, and left in a huff...which is how these things usually end.  Talk big and walk out before they get a definitive answer.

Bottom line, if you have questions (or think you have what it takes to take on a Law Librarian), we take all comers.  Just be ready for a take-down (because Law Librarians have scary awesome research skills).