The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010. Certain of these amendments became effective as of March 15, 2011, including revisions to the provisions of the ADA governing service animals.
Rules Relating to Service Animals
First and foremost…according to federal law, service animals are not pets. For example, health codes that prohibit animals in restaurants do not apply to service animals. Your hotel may be “pet free” for some purposes, but that policy cannot apply to service animals. The law says that service animals are working animals that have been trained to perform tasks for disabled persons such as guiding the blind, alerting the deaf, pulling wheelchairs, providing seizure alerts, and calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack (which must be distinguished from a “comfort” animal, as discussed below).
Dogs and Miniature Horses as Service Animals
In the new provisions, the federal law was changed to more narrowly define “service animals” to include individually trained dogs which assist their owners with physical impairments. Under the ADA, as revised, “comfort animals” (whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support) are no longer considered service animals.
In addition to the provisions about dogs as service animals, the revised ADA regulations now have a provision about miniature horses (which generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds) that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Entities covered by the ADA must now also modify their policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable. The revised regulations provide for the weighing of certain factors to determine if miniature horses can be accommodated in a facility: “(1) whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (2) whether the miniature horse is under the owner’s control; (3) whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight; and (4) whether the miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.” Continue ›