Service animals have been in the news a lot lately, mainly due to claims of house pets being inappropriately passed off as service animals.
There has been so much discord surrounding this topic that Colorado legislature is aiming to change the law. They recently introduced a bill that would criminalize the misrepresentation of pets as service animals.
Here’s what restaurant owners need to know about service animals, including the current regulations.
Current national regulations
The U.S. Department of Justice currently oversees national regulations regarding service animals, which are outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Beginning on March 15, 2011, the ADA limited the definition of service animals to "dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities." The work or tasks they perform may include:
- Guiding the blind;
- Pulling a wheelchair;
- Alerting and protecting individuals who are deaf or having a seizure;
- Reminding individuals to take prescribed medications; and
- Acting as a calming force for those diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The ADA makes it clear that service animals are "working animals" and are not classified as pets. The task performed by the dog must also directly relate to the person's disability.
Dogs acting primarily as emotional support for their owners do not qualify as service animals per the ADA guidelines.
Interestingly, the ADA recently added another separate provision regarding the use of miniature horses. A four-step assessment is used to determine whether the horse and its owner should receive the same accommodations as service dogs.
Title II and III entities