By Marguerite Cleveland
I think the lady with her dog in a front carrier like a baby carrier in the grocery store was what finally put me over the edge. Don’t get me wrong, I have a dog that I love and like to spend time with, but I would never have the audacity to bring him to a grocery store. We have all heard about the emotional support peacock and other outside the box comfort animals. It really has gotten ridiculous. You can order your own vest for a pet or a simple note from your doctor to have a comfort pet. Why should you care about this? Well now service members with dogs trained to help them are starting to get push back or being denied entry with their Service Animals. So how do you tell the difference?
Under Title III of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and virtually all state laws, a service animal is an animal that has been trained to perform work or tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. The key word here is trained. A Service Dog has undergone extensive training to perform skills specific to a handler’s disability. In addition service dogs receive training in public access skills. They learn how to sit quietly in public and to remain under control in a variety of settings. Costs of training a dog can be over $25,000 and 50 to 70 percent of dogs fail the training. Under the ADA only dogs or miniature horses can be service animals. In contrast, an emotional support pet can be just ordering a vest for your dog online or getting a note from your doctor. People have claimed peacocks, snakes, ducks, chickens, roosters, a turkey and many other things to be a comfort animal. Another thing to note is the ADA recognizes a distinct difference between a psychiatric service dogs who is trained to resolve an anxiety attack versus an emotional support pet whose presence provides comfort.
So the ADA requires public accommodations for service animals to accompany their handler any where the handler goes. Recently the Department of Justice prohibits service animals from swimming in public pools and they can’t be placed in shopping carts. The only two questions you can ask to determine if a dog is a service animal is 1. Do you need the animal because of a disability? 2. What work or tasks has the animal been trained to perform? If someone can’t answer the second question, then the dog is not a service animal. Emotional support animals can not go into restaurants and grocery stores.
There are some areas that must accommodate emotional support animals. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) provides protection for emotional support animals so even a non-pet friendly apartment or home may have to accommodate an emotional support animal. Airlines must comply with the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) which covers accommodations for those with disabilities on airplanes. They have typically accommodated emotional support animals but recent abuses (i.e. the Peacock) have resulted in the Department of Transportation reviewing the issue and new rules are pending.
Also be aware that some states have enacted laws which allow more access for emotional support dogs. Don ’t bring pets into areas with food like grocery stores and restaurants. If you have an emotional support dog be respectful of the fact that your pet is not a trained service animal. They do not have the same access or accommodation as protected under Title III of the ADA. Please do not make things confusing or difficult for businesses by taking your animal where it is not authorized. Protect our veterans and those who are disabled rights’ to have a service animal.
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.WanderWordsWine.com