general questions

What does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) consider to be a “disability”?

The ADA defines disability as:

A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.

These major life activities include, but are not limited to:

Caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working.

It also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of all body systems as well as the immune system, neurological, and brain functions.

Where can I get more information on the ADA?

Visit their website at: http://www.ada.gov/

ADA Information Line:

800-514-0301 (Voice) and 800-514-0383 (TTY)

24 hours a day to order publications by mail.

M-W, F 9:30a-5:30p, Th 12:30p-5:30p (Eastern Time)

To speak with an ADA Specialist. Calls are confidential.

What is a Service Animal?

The ADA’s definition of a service animal includes “…ANY guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability”. This is true regardless if the service animal has been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

The service animal performs tasks that the person with a disability would otherwise not be able to perform on their own. These may include:

-Alerting people with hearing impairments to sounds.

-Carrying or picking objects for the person.

-Guide dogs helping those who are blind.

-Assisting with balance to those with mobility impairments.

Under the ADA, the animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices keep the animal from performing its duties. In that case, the animal must be under control using signal, voice, or other control methods.

Do I need to get a certification for my Service Animal?

The ADA does not explicitly state that a service animal need be certified or licensed.  To qualify for a service animal you must fall under the definition of disabled and the animal must perform tasks that help you in major life activities. Furthermore, places of business may not insist on proof of state certification before allowing a service animal to accompany the person with a disability.

My apartment has a “no pet” policy, can I have my Service Animal live with me?

Landlords cannot discriminate when it comes to Service Animals, even when they have a strict “no pets” policy. By law, Service Animals must be allowed to live wherever their handler lives. Furthermore, landlords MAY NOT charge and extra maintenance or cleaning fee, it is against the law.

I was told that I had to pay a maintenance, and/or cleaning fee to allow my service animal into a hotel?

It is against the ADA to require someone with a service dog to pay extra cleaning or maintenance fees. Neither a deposit nor surcharge may be imposed as a condition for allowing a service animal into a place of business. 

However, if a service animal does cause damage to property you may be charged for said damage so long as it is the regular practice to charge non-disabled persons for the same damages.

What do I do if someone says that I cannot bring my dog into their place of business?

They must first understand that it is not a pet but a service animal, once this is established most business owners will have no problem letting you in.  If this is not the case, you can show them your Service Animal ID and calmly let the person know that you are a disabled person and are within your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to enter their premises.

Does my pet need to be trained to be a Service Animal?

Not necessarily, but the pet must be able to maintain a level of behavior conducive to being around other people.  If your dog barks, growls, or otherwise acts out of control, places of business are within their right to exclude you from their premises.  In that case, they should give you the option of continuing to enjoy their goods and services without the animal present.

Having a good foundation of basic obedience will only ensure that these situations not happen.

How do I take my Service Animal on the Airplane?

You must notify the airline when booking your flight that you will be traveling with your Service Animal.  Many airlines will require that you present your Service Animal ID and a doctor’s note upon check-in.  Please visit your airline’s website for more information.

Therapy Dogs & Emotional Support Animals

What is a Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog is trained to provide affection and comfort to people in many different locations.  These include: schools, hospitals, retirement homes, and nursing homes. They may also help people with learning difficulties.

What kind of questions should I expect to answer when going into an establishment with my service animal?

If and when it is not obvious as to the service the animal provides, employees/staff members may ask two questions: 1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

                              2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Employee/Staff cannot ask about the individual’s disability, require medical documentation, require special training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform tasks.

Please note: If your animal is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and NOT a Service Animal, you may be asked to show a letter from a licensed mental health professional since ESA’s are treated differently under the ADA. 

I don’t think I am disabled, so do I qualify?

Look to the first question above to help you, since you may not define disability in the same way as it is written under the ADA.

Can animals other than dogs qualify as a service animal?

Under the ADA, only dogs are considered service animals. However it has revised some of its regulations and now has a separate provision for miniature horses that have been trained to perform tasks for individuals with a disability.

Miniature horses generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.  Where reasonable, establishments must modify their policies to permit miniature horses.

There are 4 factors that can determine whether or not a miniature horse should be accommodated, these include:

 (1) Whether the miniature horse is housebroken.

(2) Whether the miniature horse is under the owner’s control.

(3) Whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight and

(4) Whether the miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.

Can I really take my Service Animal anywhere I want to go?

To those qualified people with a disability who need their Service Animal, the ADA helps to protect you to make certain you have the same access to goods and services as non-disabled individuals.

In most cases, you can gain entrance to any public establishment, forgo the need to pay a “pet” deposit and use public transportation with your service animal worry free.

What is the difference between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal?

A Service Animal is trained to assist a disabled handler in completing major life activities as defined by the ADA.  Emotional Support Animals are intended to provide emotional support and are not specifically trained to complete specific tasks that help with major life activities.

What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

It is a pet that provides therapeutic companionship and affection.  They require only as much training as an ordinary pet requires in order to not be a nuisance or a danger to those around it.  

The two federal laws that grant special rights to some owners of emotional support animals include the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act.

Both of these Acts establishes that modifications to the “no pets” policies must be made in order to permit a person with a disability to keep a pet for emotional support. The owner of the ESA must provide the correct documentation which includes a letter from a licensed mental health professional prescribing the ESA.

In housing that charges supplemental rent or deposits for pets, these fees must be waived in the case of ESA’s. While the ESA’s owner can be charged for any damage done by the animal, they may not require the applicant to pay a separate fee or a security deposit. 

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