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
Just Ask Tabby.
Dear Tabby, Can every kind of
service animal accompany their disabled partner in public? Our state laws only
include guide dogs for the blind.
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.
Dear Tabby, Who decides if I am a
qualified service animal in training, my owner, a training school, or the
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Legal: "Dear Tabby"
and "Ask Tabby" are trademarks of the Service Animal Registry of America (SARA)
and all rights are reserved.
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