Friday, January 9, 2009

News: More on the Leaked DOJ Rules Regarding Service Animals

The reporter with the original leak posted DoJ's Rationale Behind Banning Non-Canine Service Animals. I must disagree with many of the commenters on this post. Service Animals of any kind have never been exempted from any animal control laws. People with service animals must follow local law with regards to the health, registration, and legal owning of their animals. That means if you want a bully type breed (commonly called pit bulls), a rottweiller, or other commonly banned breed or species for a service animal you must either live in a place that doesn't have such a law, or apply for a varience through the proper channels.

She also posted specifically of the department's stance regarding service animals for people with psychiatric disabilities.

"The Department has adopted regulatory text in § 36.104 to formalize its position on emotional support or comfort animals, which states that "[e]motional support, comfort, companionship, or therapeutic benefits; the promotion of emotional well-being; and the crime deterrent effects of an animal's mere presence do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition." The Department notes however, that the exclusion of emotional support animals from coverage in the final rule does not mean that individuals with psychiatric or mental disabilities cannot use service animals that meet the regulatory definition. The Department has proposed specific regulatory text in § 36.104 to make this clear: "The term service animal includes individually trained animals that do work or perform tasks for the benefit of individuals with disabilities, including psychiatric and mental disabilities." This language simply clarifies the Department's longstanding position."

The DOJ provides futher clarification:

"Under the Department's previous regulatory framework, some individuals and entities assumed that the requirement that service animals must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks excluded all individuals with mental disabilities from having service animals. Others assumed that any person with a psychiatric condition whose pet provided comfort to them was covered by the 1991 regulation. The Department reiterates that psychiatric service animals that are trained to do work or perform a task (e.g., reminding its owner to take medicine) for individuals whose disability is covered by the ADA are protected by the Department's present regulatory approach. Psychiatric service animals can be trained to perform a variety of tasks that assist individuals with disabilities to detect the onset of psychiatric episodes and ameliorate their effects. Tasks performed by psychiatric service animals may include reminding the handler to take medicine; providing safety checks or room searches for persons with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; interrupting self-mutilation; and removing disoriented individuals from dangerous situations.

The difference between an emotional support animal and a psychiatric service animal is the work or tasks that the animal performs. Traditionally, service dogs worked as guides for individuals who were blind or had low vision. Since the original regulation was promulgated, service animals have been trained to assist individuals with many different types of disabilities. In some cases, individuals who have impairments that do not qualify as a disability under the ADA have concluded mistakenly that the regulation gives them the right to use service animals. "

See my earlier post What is the Purpose of a Service Dog? for more on what a service dog is, behavior standards, and commonly trained tasks (including tasks for people with psychiatric disabilities.

Many are asking why the sudden need to regulate the species of service animals to just dogs. There are two reasons: the first being people choosing animals that may and is some cases out right do pose a risk to the public; the second being people choosing animals that cannot be trained to perform tasks and their sole pupose is comfort; and the third is my previous postPeople Claiming Their Dogs are Service Dogs to Take them in Public Beware.

1 comment:

Janice said...

Thanks for the clarification on the DOJ rules. My psychologist indicated before January 2009 that my disability would qualify for having a service dog, but not that the dog would have to be trained to perform a specific task. I guess I'll have to look into this further. Meanwhile, I'm going to pursue Canine Good Citizen certification for my 2 lovely basset hounds.