Dear Tabby,
Dear Tabby: Tabby, the cat has been helping out at SARA so long that she has become an animal expert on the different laws that impact the disabled and their service animals.
Just Ask Tabby.
 

ASK TABBY


 


Question:Dear Tabby, Can every kind of service animal accompany their disabled partner in public? Our state laws only include guide dogs for the blind.
Answer:Darling, Yes dear, yes! Of course they can. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) includes all of us wonderul creatures. Federal law (ADA) does not discriminate on the race of the animal or on the job they perform for their disabled human. Your state law is more restrictive than the ADA, therefore the ADA is the top cat. State law plays second fiddle to federal civil rights law. Some state laws make me purr, when they offer more rights within their states than the ADA does on a national basis. But those extra rights are only granted within that state.

BAD NEWS UPDATE: Under the Obama administration, in spite of much public outcry the ADA definition of Service Animal changed limiting what animals can under federal law assist their owner in public; Service animals are now defined as DOGS that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. This ADA definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of assistance animal under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of service animal under the Air Carrier Access Act. On the brighter side, some State and local laws define service animal more broadly than the ADA now does.
In addition to the provisions about service dogs, the revised ADA regulations have a new, separate provision about miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Entities covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable.

Luv, Tabby
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Question:Dear Tabby, Who decides if I am a qualified service animal in training, my owner, a training school, or the law?

Answer:Darling, I understand your confusion! Leave it to humans to complicate things for us. The answer is, the law, both state and federal. The law defines what a disabled person is, what a service animal is and sometimes what a service animal in training is. Federal law covers ALL the USA. It is the minimum of the rights provided in every state, but is the top cat. State law then steps in where the federal law is silent. Lets take service animals in training (SAIT) and the ADA as an example. If the ADA is silent about SAIT, and it is, then state law takes effect in that state. Thus, the state definitions would apply within the state.

Luv, Tabby
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Question:Dear Tabby, I just turned six months old but I'm already helping my owner by alerting her to sounds she cannot hear. Someone told my owner that I'm too young to be considered a service animal, because I'm just a puppy. Is this true?
Answer:Darling, Heavens to Betsy, no! What dimwit told her that nonsense? The ADA does not discriminate on age of a service animal dear. We are all equal.
Luv, Tabby
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Question:Dear Tabby,  My partner was told I needed to be trained at a qualified school by a licensed trainer to be a service dog. Any truth to that?
Answer:Darling, Not where the ADA is concerned. However, there may be some truth to it where additional rights are granted under your state law. For example, any person can train an animal to be a service animal under the ADA, even the owner, and that animal is entitled to the same access as an animal trained by an expert at a school. But, the state may say it is a felony to kill a service dog (rightly so!), and if the state law defines service dog as a dog trained at a qualified school by a licensed trainer. Then the service dog that is trained by its owner, would not legally be a service dog in the eyes of the state where that law is in force. Thus, the disabled service dog owner would still have ALL the rights provided by federal law concerning a service dog he trained himself, but not any additional rights granted under the state law.
Luv, Tabby
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Question:Dear Tabby, My precious owner suffers from a severe mental disorder and has been told by her Dr. that she is 100% disabled. I am the purr-fect kitten and bring my owner much love and attention. I let her know that she is about to have an episode. I can tell it is happening before she does.  I have had no training. Am I her ADA service animal? I would love to go everywhere with her and keep her safe.
Answer:Darling, You sound like a purrfect companion for your mistress. Often we become trained without even realizing it has taken place. For example, each day your mistress uses an electric can opener to open a tuna can. You of course begin to associate the lovely smell of tuna with that irritating buzz of the can opener. You begin to run to the can opener, knowing you will be allowed to lick the can clean. Before long, you run to the can opener every time you hear it. You have become trained to associate a sound and react in a certain way. The same exact thing happens when we associate something our disabled owner does, we react a certain way signaling our owner, and our owner rewards us. We become trained, although we may not have been formally labeled as "Trained" by an expert. If you have become trained for example, to somehow let your mistress know she needs to sit down before she falls down, to take her meds, to call for help, etc. then you are trained to signal your disabled mistress. Signaling is one form of work that an animal can do that qualifies it as a service animal.
Luv, Tabby
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Question:Dear Tabby, Are we service animals required by the ADA to wear leashes, vests or other kinds of special things. I'm a nudest at heart and I hate wearing anything.
Answer:Darling, I can understand you dilemma. I once hated wearing things too. Certain attire can help to identify you as a service animal and that can help to avoid some confrontations in public. However, it is not required under the ADA. In fact, it would be a detrimental policy if the ADA were ever revised in the future to require restraining devices. Some service animals need complete freedom to work properly. Some examples are those service animals that work for people with autism and Alzheimer's.
Luv, Tabby
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Disclaimer - Read Carefully: Tabby the cat, nor her human friends at the Service Animal Registry of America (SARA) give any legal advice and nothing herein should be considered legal advice. Consider this forum of disability cat chatter for entertainment purposes only. Afterall, Tabby is just a fictional cat and not an attorney. But, if the bar does ever admit fictional cats, Tabby may just take the challenge <grin>
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