Saturday, April 03, 1999

Q&A: Service animal laws

        Federal guidelines and etiquette regarding guidedogs:

  For more information regarding service animals or general questions about the legal rights of the disabled, contact:
  • ADA Information Line: U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TDD).
  • Cincinnati Association for the Blind: Walnut Hills, (513) 221-8558.
  • Guide Dogs for the Blind Inc.: San Rafael, Calif., (800) 295-4050,
  • Ohio Civil Rights Commission: Cincinnati Regional Office, (888) 278-7101.
        Question: What are the laws that apply to my business?

        Answer: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately-owned businesses that serve the public — restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxis, theaters, concert halls and sports facilities — are required to allow service dogs into all public areas. One exception to the ADA rule: if the dog is unruly or unkempt.

        Q: What is a service animal?

        A: The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to a disabled person. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

        Dog guides often are used by the blind, but service animals also include those trained to alert the hearing-impaired to sounds, pull wheelchairs, carry and pick things up for disabled owners and assist some owners with balance.

        Q: How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

        A: Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some are licensed or certified and have identification papers.

        You may ask the person with a service animal if he or she needs the animal because of a disability. No proof of state certification is required for service animal access. No fees or deposits can be charged for service animal access, even if deposits are routinely charged for pet access.

        General etiquette:

• People often see guide dogs and walk up to and pet them. Ask first. It is often better not to pet the dog guide while it is working because it's a distraction. When a dog guide is in a harness, it is working.

Sources: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Dog Guides for the Blind Inc.

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