The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations were revised and published in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010. In addition to clarifications made to “service animal” regulations, a revision on the definition of a service animal was also made.
Most of us are familiar with Guide Dogs for the blind or visually impaired and Hearing Dogs for those who are deaf or hearing impaired. We may even know of Service Dogs that provide assistance to people using wheelchairs.
Yet, many do not realize there are many other types of disabilities that can be helped with a service animal. For example, someone with a seizure disorder or diabetes may be alerted by their service animal to impending attacks before the person can detect them and is able to get to a safe place or take precautions. A service animal can often retrieve an item or remind someone to take their medications.
On the other hand, although very valuable to the lives of many, animals used primarily for emotional support, companionship or therapy have never been considered to be service animals. None of the above have ever had public access rights in the past, nor do they now. Although therapy animals which are trained to provide therapy in certain environments have been allowed to access such places as nursing homes, schools and hospitals, their entrance has been by permission and not by disability law.
A service animal must be able to “…work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability…” (DOJ). As a result of common confusion of what determined an animal to be a service animal, clarifications on such requirements were made.
In addition to the expanded definition of service animals, it was also revised to limit the type of animal used. Previously, the term left the option open for people with disabilities to choose the use of such animals as a monkey, cat, bird or pig as their service animal. Now, the regulation states, “Service animal means any dog…” (DOJ). Effective March 15, 2011, this restriction will be applied (with some limited exception to miniature horses).
Regarding the canine limitation, the executive director of the Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled told Christine Cullen, Staff Writer for the Ocean City Today, the ADA changes “will have little effect on how Helping Hands operates because the organization only trains its monkeys for in-home use. Talbert said they are not suited to go out in public anyway” (OCT).
In all, these new regulations do not restrict people from training and using any animal to assist them in their homes and private spaces. Nonetheless, they will no longer be considered a service animal in relation to access of public places.
(DOJ) “Highlights of the Final Rule to Amend the Department of Justice’s Regulation IMplementing Title III of the ADA.” Department of Justice. ADA Home Page. Last updated October 7, 2010. www.ada.gov/regs2010/factsheets/title3_factsheet.html (Accessed 11.9.2010).
(OCT) “Federal law sttes only canines now qualify as disabled service animals.” Christine Cullen. Ocean City Today. August 6, 2010. http://www.oceancitytoday.net/news/2010-08-06/Top_News/Federal_law_states_only_canines_now_qualify_as_dis.html (Accessed 11.9.2010).
How was the definition of “service animal” changed July 23, 2010? / Final Rule for Title II / Title II Fact Sheet / Text of Revised Title II Regulation / Final Rule for Title III / Title III Fact Sheet / Text of Revised Title III Regulation
The Invisible Disabilities Association is not a legal authority. Please seek advice from the ADA, an attorney or other proper authority to help define and apply laws and regulations.