I recently received two telephone calls from consumers regarding service animals. Back in July, I wrote about House Bill 2401, which amended the existing state statute pertaining to the definition of service animals. Surprisingly, the amendments have brought forward a new round of questions, two of which I'll try to address here. The first pertains to certification and whether owners have to offer evidence that their animals have been certified in order to enter public buildings. Existing state law holds no requirements for certification of animals, although some organizations offering training and certification have been known to advise owners that they must certify their animal to qualify as a service animal. A second caller asked about whether business owners have the right to ban all animals except for service animals. Again the statute doesn't clearly address the issue, but I presume that businesses can restrict pets from entering the premises and allow only service animals.
The Council has been fortunate to host Brenda Renou, a new intern from Arizona State University, to gain experience in public service and also learn more about developmental disabilities. Coincidently, Brenda uses a service animal due to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, a sensitivity which contributes to other significant conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Benda's dog has been trained to detect odors that are noxious to her and alert before respiratory distress begins. Due to her strong interest in service animals (she also assists in training new service dogs), I asked Brenda to research some general issues on what both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Arizona State law says about common questions on use of service animals. Here's what she found:
- Only dogs and miniature horses can be service animals and are not considered pets. They must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability and its work must be directly related to the handler's disability. It is protected under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. A dog that solely comforts or provides emotional support does not qualify under ADA.
- Arizona law also states that any trainer or individual with a disability may take an animal being trained as a service animal to a public place for purposes of training it to the same extent as provided to a handler of a fully trained animal.
- The animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless devices interfere with the animal's work or the individual's disability prevents the use of these devices, in which case, voice, signal, or other effective control must be maintained by the individual (ADA). State law doesn't specifically address the issue but does have a leash law for pet dogs that states it must be "on a leash not to exceed six feet in length and directly under the owner's control when not on the owner's property."
- Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. State statute says, Public place means any office or place of business or recreation to which the general public is invited, whether operated by a public or private entity and includes all forms of conveyance, including taxis, tow trucks and ambulances.
- The ADA states that when it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Two questions may be asked: (1) Is the dog/horse a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) What work or task has the dog/horse been trained to perform? Owners of service animals cannot be asked about their disability, be required to present medical documentation, required to have a special identification card or training documentation for the dog/horse, or ask that the dog/horse demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task. Arizona State law says discrimination includes requiring an individual with a disability to disclose disability related information.
Service animals can be excluded from public places if:
- It is not under control or housebroken (ADA). It also includes barking at the movies, which is a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business.
- It poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, fundamentally alters the nature of the public place or the goods, services or activities provided, or poses an undue burden (State).
- The ADA says that zoos must allow service animals wherever the public is allowed to go. State statute has a whole section on zoos (section F) that allows certain exclusions, but ADA takes precedence over state and local regulations.
Student intern, Brenda Renou and her service dog, Oren.
Photo Taken By: Tony Gottlob