Below is the most recent definition of a service dog from the U.S. Department of Justice. This amended regulation implementing title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) took effect on March 15, 2011.
Service Animals. The rule defines “service animal” as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The rule states that other animals, whether wild or domestic, do not qualify as service animals. Dogs that are not trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a disability, including dogs that are used purely for emotional support, are not service animals. The final rule also clarifies that individuals with mental disabilities who use service animals that are trained to perform a specific task are protected by the ADA. The rule permits the use of trained miniature horses as alternatives to dogs, subject to certain limitations. To allow flexibility in situations where using a horse would not be appropriate, the final rule does not include miniature horses in the definition of “service animal.”
For businesses interested in understanding their part in the service dog world, there are a solid number of sources: Pet Partners (http://www.petpartners.org/) provides an excellent tri-fold brochure that answers most questions a business might have about service dogs. There is also an ADA Update for Small Businesses that can be found at www.ada.gov/regs2010/smallbusiness. Another printable PDF document is located at http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/smallbusiness/smallbusprimer2010.htm. Also especially helpful for businesses is a 1-page Question & Answer handout available at http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm.
When you do a bit of research in the right places, the laws are pretty cut and dry. But for local help interpreting all this legalese, you can contact a very helpful organization, the Disabilities Law Center in Anchorage. Page 14 of their document specifically addresses service dog owner’s rights. Their website: http://www.dlcak.org/files/pdf/Publications/YourMentalHealthRights.pdf.
Also a very useful name to know is the ADA Information Center. Dave Barton is located at the new Access Alaska office on W. Fireweed Lane in Anchorage. Here is an explanation of the local help offered and numbers to call:
The ADA Partner’s Project is the Alaskan affiliate for the Disability Business Technical Assistance Center Northwest (DBTAC Northwest). The DBTAC Northwest: ADA Information Center receives its primary funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).
The ADA Partners Project brings together Alaskans from all parts of the state to explain provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to individuals and businesses, and help Alaskans comply with the ADA requirements.
- Technical assistance and information dissemination on the legal obligations and rights under Americans with Disabilities Act and state and federal disability laws/regulations
- Tailored training presentations for staff of businesses, local and state government, social services agencies, universities and schools, clubs, and the general public upon request. -May include, but not limited to, training topics such as employment; reasonable accommodations; disability awareness & sensitivity; customer service for persons with disabilities; service animals; and accessibility.
- Accessibility Compliance and Survey assistance for a barrier-free environment
Contact Information: David Barton, ADA Partners Project Coordinator, Access Alaska, 121 W. Fireweed Lane, Anchorage, AK 99503. Phone: (907) 248-4777 Ext. 206. TTY: (907) 248-8799. Also (888) 462-1444. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or website: www.dbtacnorthwest.org
A helpful document for returning servicemen and women titled “Know your rights returning service members with disabilities” can be found at the following website: http://www.ada.gov/servicemembers_adainfo.pdf. This brochure has a lot of information and numerous phone numbers and contacts.
Commonly asked questions for Service Dogs in Alaska can be found at website: http://www.servicedogcentral.org/content/node/2. The Alaska Statute that talks about protections for service dog teams is: Sec. 11.76.130. Interference with rights of physically or mentally challenged person. Here is what the state law says:
(a) A person commits the crime of interference with the rights of a physically or mentally challenged person if the person intentionally prevents or restricts
(1) a physically or mentally challenged person from having full and free pedestrian use of a street, highway, sidewalk, walkway, or other thoroughfare to the same extent that any other person has a right to pedestrian use; or
(2) a physically or mentally challenged person from being accompanied or assisted by a certified service animal, without an extra charge for the service animal, in a common carrier, place of public accommodation, or other place to which the general public is invited except as provided in (b) of this section.
(b) A physically or mentally challenged person who is accompanied or assisted by a certified service animal in a common carrier, place of public accommodation, or other place to which the general public is invited is liable for property damage done by the animal.
(c) In this section,
(1) “certified service animal” means an animal trained to assist a physically or mentally challenged person and certified by a school or training facility for service animals as having completed such training;
(2) “physically or mentally challenged ” means physically or mentally disabled, as defined in AS 18.80.300 .
(d) Interference with the rights of a physically or mentally challenged person is a class B misdemeanor.
Northwest ADA Center has Service Animals: Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.dbtacnorthwest.org/public/site/files/fact_sheets/Facts-ServiceAnimal.pdf
Following are some website information for employees with service dogs, and traveling with a service dog:
Northwest ADA Center: Service Animals As An Employee Accommodation. http://www.dbtacnorthwest.org/_public/site/files/fact_sheets/Facts-Animals-RA.pdf
Service Animal info from the TSA: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/editorial_1056.shtm
Service Animal info from the DOT: http://airconsumer.dot.gov/rules/20030509.pdf
And finally, information for those individuals temped to create a “fake” service dog by buying a vest on-line for their pet. People don’t realize that it is a crime to impersonate a disabled person and claim that your pet is a service dog. Putting a vest on a pet and telling a business that their pet is a service dog is the crime of trying to obtain benefits that they are not entitled to. Here is how the state law is worded:
A person commits the crime of criminal impersonation in the second degree if he assumes a false identity and acts in the assumed character with intent to defraud, commit a crime, or obtain a benefit to which the person is not entitled; or pretends to be a representative of some person or organization and acts in the pretended capacity with intent to defraud, commit a crime, or obtain a benefit to which the person is not entitled. Criminal impersonation in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $10,000. Statute: §11.46.570