Thursday, January 8, 2009

News: Leak of New Service Animal Definition- Dogs only?

Well, the latest new to hit the service animal community is a leak from the DOJ suggesting that the definition of Service animal under the ADA may be limited to dogs. This would be a quite a change from the proposed rule changes to the ADA put out for public comment this past August. See my previous post Backlash from dog killing on Portland Public Transit for more detail about the original proposed changes and the DOJ response to people's comments.

In the U.S. there has traditionally not been any limit placed on what kind of animal could be used as a service animal;however, service animals could not pose a direct health or safety threat to the public and any animal not under adequate control of its disabled handler could be removed from the business. Furthermore, the animal had to be trained to perform tasks to mitigate the handler's disability.

When choosing animals to be service animals for people with disabilities it was no accident that dogs were chosen. Dogs have been bred for thousands of years to live and work with humans. National Geographic has a whole series on how dogs and humans came together:
The Origin of Dogs
How Did Dogs Become Adept at Playing to Humans?
Human Gestures Fed Dogs' Domestication
Did Carolina Dog Arrive With Ancient Americans?
Human, Dog Genomes Similar, Study Finds
Scientists Start Deciphering Dog Genome
National Geographic magazine: Wolf to Woof—The Evolution of Dogs

After doing an Internet search I could find no mention of animals other than dogs being used to assist people with disabilities in other parts of the world. Even if other animals can be trained to assist people with disabilities potential handlers for these unusual animals must ask do the advantages of having a unique assist out way the challenges. I can't help but wonder if this latest definition change is the DOJ's effort to come inline with the rest of international policy regarding animal assistants for people with disabilities?

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