Question about ADA and service animals

The difference between service animals and emotional support animals isn’t whether the person has a disability. Both are only available to disabled people. (Officially, that is; setting aside the fact that anyone can go online, claim to be depressed, and get a doctor’s note for an ESA. If they’re faking it, though, that’s fraud.) The difference is that service animals have been trained to perform a specific task to assist a person with a disability, while ESAs support the person just by acting the way they naturally act. So a dog that has been trained to sense and alert its owner of an imminent seizure, so the owner can take a pill/lie down on their side/etc., is a service dog; a dog that just nuzzles his owner affectionately when the owner is having crippling PTSD flashbacks, comforting the owner and bringing him back to the present moment, is an ESA. So yes, the people with disabilities and ESAs are often in favor of expanding protections for themselves.

Actually , only dogs and possibly miniature horses * can be service animals.

* some sources say only dogs, but others say the definition was changed and also allows miniature horses

And there are two issue arising from this.

(1) Since ESAs are untrained, all you need to do is find a doctor, tell them you feel a little depressed sometimes and your cat makes you feel better, the doctor signs a note and your pet is now magically an “official” ESA. Unless people with genuine and substantial disability (like crippling PTSD) are willing to get behind more stringent standards for establishing ESA status, it is unlikely that there will be much public support for expanding service animal protection to ESAs.

(2) Even when people do have genuine and substantial mental/emotional disability, to what extent is it reasonable to expect the rest of the world to accommodate untrained animals in all shared public spaces?

But I don’t think an ESA is a “service animal” according to ADA.
I think it is entirely reasonable that a “service animal” requires certification (Fed? State? County?) giving the owner something they can show that

  1. The animal is a service animal under ADA
  2. The function the animal performs

which are legal questions to ask the owner anyways under ADA.

Correct, although that’s a non sequitur to my post and the post I was responding to, which were discussing the differences and whether ESAs should get the same recognition as trained service animals.

I was just curious what is official about an “official” ESA.

The doctor’s note, I believe.

But how is an “official” ESA any different (legally) than an unofficial one?

The doctor’s note makes it official. Are you asking now what entitlements come with that?

I guess. What can you do with an official ESA that you can’t do with an unofficial one?

I think the broad strokes are Fair Housing Act, but not ADA.

Landlords have to allow you to have an ESA even if they don’t allow pets. You used to be able to bring them on a p!ane under the same conditions as service animals but that recently changed.

It’s even murkier than that, unfortunately. By definition, a service animal is trained to perform specific tasks to assist a person with a disability. There is no requirement that they be professionally trained, or even housebroken. If I have a bad hip that prevents me from standing up from a chair without help, and I train my pet dog to come when I call so I can grab his harness, and then walk forward so I can pull myself up, I now have a service dog. Even if he bites people.

Not quite.

The airlines lobbied long and hard and got DOT to create restrictive regulations that the other Federal agencies agree comply with the spirit of ADA.

So this is not an action taken by individual companies or by whole industries. This is the Feds updating the regs.

Now certainly the grocery industry or restaurant industry could lobby for a similar regulatory adjustment. But those industries don’t have the same legacy of a) intense Federal regulation, and b) a total prohibition on State or local regulation.

Industries used to operating under different regulatory regimes will have a much harder time getting anything changed in their direction.

I can totally understand why the OP’s friend doesn’t want to press the issue, but I really dislike considering “you can stay somewhere else” as a reasonable accommodation. What about the next disabled person who needs a room and the sister properties are booked? What about the person who just wants to stay at that hotel? I hate to Rosa-ize the thread, but it seems this accommodation is on par with “you can sit in the back of the bus” or “you can use that other drinking fountain.”

Sorry for the tangent, but if you’re actually going into Ape Cave, the temperature is always 42F all year, so can just camp out at the bottom.

But depending on your friend’s disability, that might not be an option - the cave is most definitely not ADA-compliant.

We discuss this a lot on the Tales from the Front Desk subreddit. I’m in favor of a government registry and card. They show you the card, you look it up on the website and all it has to say is registered service animal. That can’t be an invasion of privacy about what your disability is because it doesn’t say.

Hotels have the right to kick out service animals if they can’t be controlled. Will they is a different matter. Humans getting kicked out for your behavior is much more likely. We don’t care if you have a genuine service animal; your wild partying at 3 AM is getting you booted.

Only dogs and miniature horses (which have a number of advantages over dogs as guide animals: field of vision, night vision, longevity) can be service animals. Any other species cannot be a service animal. They could have been “emotional support animals” (which means nothing more than that the person got a doctor or therapist to write a letter saying it was an ESA.) In most situations, ESAs have no legal standing, but unfortunately, the Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make “reasonable” accommodations for them.

This is not true. There is no requirement that a person be disabled in order to have an ESA. ESA means nothing more than a letter from a doctor or therapist saying it’s an ESA. There are plenty of people who have a history of major depressive disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder, who work full-time, have families and friends, go shopping in stores without having panic attacks, and are fully functional human beings, not disabled at all, but enjoy imposing their pets upon the rest of us in places where they don’t belong through this bogus concept of an ESA.

Right, the problem is that under the ADA as it currently stands, there is no requirement that the animal’s owner answer those questions truthfully. Some states have laws against misrepresenting a non-service animal as a service animal, but how are you ever going to get caught?

But if he bites people, under the ADA, the proprietor of a public accommodation is allowed to kick you and him out.

No, that would be fraud. I already said that this type of fraud is easy and widespread, but that doesn’t make it legal, any more than not getting caught when I walk out of the liquor store with a bottle of Scotch under my coat makes it not stealing.

Sure, but he’s still a service dog. He doesn’t lose his status; he can’t be prevented from entering establishments in the future. The only remedies are after-the-fact, whereas if it’s not a service animal, the business owner can say no in the first place.

ETA: Here’s an example. Let’s say I own a bar with an outside patio. Customers want to bring their dogs, and the health code says it’s OK as long as the dogs don’t come inside, but I have liability and sanitation concerns. So I set up a list of requirements. Rule number one, no pit bulls. I reserve the right to determine what is and isn’t a pit bull, though if you bring me paperwork showing their pedigree, I will reconsider. Rule number two, you have to register your name and contact info with your dog’s name and a sample of his poop (some apartment complexes are actually doing this) so that I can DNA test any droppings left behind and bill you for the cleanup. You can’t bring your dog until registration is complete, typically in 4-8 weeks. Rule number three, you must present proof of obedience training. If you trained your dog yourself, I have a buddy who will evaluate your dog for a fee and determine if he’s sufficiently well-behaved. This will also be part of the registration process.

This may piss off my customers more than if I just said “no dogs.” It may end up being more of a liability than if I either said “no dogs” OR “all dogs welcome” (not to mention a lot more work.) But as long as I exempt service dogs from these requirements, it’s legal. But I can’t make the service dogs jump through any of those hoops.

How is it fraud? The only definition of an ESA is “an animal concerning which a doctor or therapist has written a letter saying it’s an ESA.”

Even there, the only reason he’s a service dog is that you say he’s been trained to perform a task that helps you with your disability. What really is a service dog, anyway? There’s no universally-agreed-upon point at which an animal is considered to have been adequately trained, there’s no governing body that licenses or registers service animals, or that defines what exactly a disability is or what kind of tasks assist a person with a disability. If you say your dog is a service animal and I disagree, there’s no higher authority or third party that can resolve our dispute. The ADA just says your word is sacrosanct.

I’m not sure about that - according to this municipalities must make exceptions from breed bans for service dogs - but

Under the “direct threat” provisions of the ADA, local jurisdictions need to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal’s actual behavior or history,

Seems to me that if a municipality can exclude a service animal based on that particular animal’s history, I can probably refuse to allow the dog that bit a customer on Tuesday to come into my store on Wednesday. ( and TBH, it’s almost certainly a fake anyway)