Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Department of Justice to World: ADA Encompasses All Breeds

Denver and Aurora, take heed! The Department of Justice (DOJ), on the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has issued its final statement on enforcement accessibility standards, including the issue of forcing those with disabilities to comply with state or local laws prohibiting certain breeds.

It's an epic read, so here are some highlights:

"Conversely, if an individual uses a breed of dog that is perceived to be aggressive because of breed reputation, stereotype, or the history or experience the observer may have with other dogs, but the dog is under the control of the individual with a disability and does not exhibit aggressive behavior, the title II entity cannot exclude the individual or the animal from a State or local government program, service, or facility."


"The Department does not believe that it is either appropriate or consistent with the ADA to defer to local laws that prohibit certain breeds of dogs based on local concerns that these breeds may have a history of unprovoked aggression or attacks. Such deference would have the effect of limiting the rights of persons with disabilities under the ADA who use certain service animals based on where they live rather than on whether the use of a particular animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others."

While not directly related to breed, this may apply to a few legal cases occurring in parts of the country in which the definition of a service dog is in question. Some have argued an emotional support dog is not covered, and this missive agrees...but it clarifies that a dog who "grounds" a person with psychiatric disorder is included in the definition. Not all commenters agreed that an emotional support therapy dog should be excluded but, as of yet, they are.

"It is the Department´s view that an animal that is trained to "ground" a person with a psychiatric disorder does work or performs a task that would qualify it as a service animal as compared to an untrained emotional support animal whose presence affects a person´s disability. It is the fact that the animal is trained to respond to the individual´s needs that distinguishes an animal as a service animal. The process must have two steps: recognition and response. For example, if a service animal senses that a person is about to have a psychiatric episode and it is trained to respond for example, by nudging, barking, or removing the individual to a safe location until the episode subsides, then the animal has indeed performed a task or done work on behalf of the individual with the disability, as opposed to merely sensing an event."

Hat tip: ADA and BSL

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