Service dogs, therapy dogs and Emotional Support Animals

In 1952 the Seeing Eye Dog Foundation was founded in California to help individuals with visual impairments stay active. Classes for Seeing eye dogs, now referred to as “guide dogs” can be dated back to 1927.

Since that time the realization that dogs can do so much more to help those with physical and mental disabilities has been recognized and their use expanded.

My Angel With Paws in DeLand, Florida, (www.myangelwithpaws.org) is a non-profit organization that trains service dogs to help individuals with mobility, seizure response, and PTSD.

Representatives from this organization were frequent guest speakers at the Halifax Humane Society in Daytona Beach summer camps. Smiles erupted when they arrived for their presentation, two ladies and about seven dogs, many puppies just beginning their training, would get out of their vehicle and head for the front door. The ladies showed the children how the dogs were trained to pick up something as small as a credit card off the floor without damaging it, obey commands like “leave it” a good command in the event a bottle of pills spilled on the floor, and turn light switches to “on.”

Another group, the Florida Hospital Hospice group would also use the shelter’s education room to assess future therapy dogs, to see if they were suitable for home and hospital visits. It’s not a secret that dogs, and cats, have therapeutic powers, can lower blood pressure and give a sense of happiness and calm to those in stressful situations. This group, and probably one in your area, had scores of volunteers and their dogs whose sole job was to offer comfort and joy to those in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice.

There are also ESA animals Emotional Support Animals. These are companion animals that provide emotional support and comfort to those with psychiatric disabilities or mental impairment. While the animal does not have the training of the service dogs and would not be allowed in public places like grocery stores, as service dogs are allowed, they are allowed to live in housing units with a “no pets” rule under the Federal Fair Housing Act. Something that is not highly publicized.

To have this opportunity a renter would need to  have their doctor’s diagnosis and medical order to qualify for the ESA animal designation.

There is confusion about where dogs are allowed. Those who are not dog people often take offense when a dog is somewhere they don’t think it should be like a shopping cart. While only service dogs are allowed in grocery stores, other stores like Lowes, Home Depot, even Macy’s often allow well-behaved and restrained dogs. This varies from store to store so it is important to call ahead and speak to the manager to find out you local store policies. Please, never leave the dog in the car if a store tells you “no.” Take the time to take them home or if there is another person with you they can walk them around in a grassy area.

I am including the federal law concerning service animals below:

Federal Law: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Dept. of U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section

Click here to view the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.

Businesses may ask if an animal is a service animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform, but cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person’s disability.
A disabled person who has an emotional support animal (ESA) will need to produce a letter from a licensed mental health professional that prescribes the need for the animal when a business asks for it.
People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons, or treated less favorably than other patrons. However, if a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.
A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the animal is out of control and the animal’s owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
In these cases, the business should give the person with the disability the option to obtain goods and services without having the animal on the premises.
Businesses that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
A business is not required to provide care or food for a service animal or provide a special location for it to relieve itself.
Allergies and fear of animals are generally not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people with service animals.
Violators of the ADA can be required to pay money damages and penalties.
(Click to view this page on the U.S. Justice Department website)

If you have additional questions concerning the ADA and service animals, please call the Department’s ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY) or visit the ADA Business Connection at http://www.ada.gov.

Duplication is encouraged. April 2014.

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