Guest post from Clear Risk Solutions
In response to several questions we’ve received regarding the distinction between service animals and emotional support animals, we checked in with Clear Risk Solutions, who provides risk management tools on behalf of our Tribal Program. They offered the following information from the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
Although the ADA requirements do not necessarily apply to specific tribal policy, they are an excellent starting point for tribes when considering their stance on accommodating service animals and in preparing against potential liability claims.
The ADA definition of a service animal is “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” The work or tasks performed must be directly related to the handler’s disability, and may include pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, pressing elevator buttons, and so on. Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not considered service animals under the ADA. The use of miniature horses by the disabled is growing in popularity, and while the ADA does not consider them service animals, they do make provisions for their use in public places. View more on miniature horses.
The ADA expects handlers to be solely responsible for the care and supervision of their service animal.
The ADA also holds that:
- A business has the right to remove uncontrolled, disruptive, or poorly behaved animals, as well as
animals whose behavior poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.
- If it is normal to charge individuals for damages they cause, a handler may be charged for any damage
caused by their animal.
Regarding the animals themselves, the ADA requires that:
- Animals must be under the control of the handler, either by tether, voice control, or some other means as their disability permits.
- The animal must be housebroken.
- The animal should be vaccinated in accordance with local laws.
Due to the unique sovereignty of each tribal nation, the requirements for accommodating people with disabilities can vary widely. We recommend that tribes conduct periodic reviews of their contractual obligations concerning this matter to ensure they are in compliance. For more information, please see the “Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals” booklet by Jacquie Brennan and Vinh Nguyen, published by the ADA, from which this information was drawn. Please contact your legal counsel with any further questions you may have.
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