I am Ariana of the North, Northern Region Deputy Accessibility Porter. That’s a mouthful. Just use Porter for short. From reading a thread on the East Kingdom Facebook page, I see that there is some confusion and lack of information about service dogs at events. I going to try to help clear things up a bit. Caveat: I am not a lawyer, if I say anything that does not agree with the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, then the ADA is correct, and I am not.
Service dogs (and in rare occasions miniature horses) can be the difference between someone being homebound and being an independent person out in the world. They can change and save lives. The ADA allows for service dogs to be in places where pet dogs cannot be.
Let’s start with what a service dog is; a service dog is a dog “that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. “(ADA §36.104 Definitions)
There is no formal paperwork or registration of service dogs.
Due to changes in the wording of the ADA back in 2011, only dogs and miniature horses can be service animals. So, no more service cats, service ferrets, etc.
An emotional support dog or a therapy dog are not service dogs. They do not get the protection of the ADA regulations. “These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places. You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws. “(Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA, Q3)
So, that’s a description, what does that mean for event stewards and seneschals?
Well, it means that people will show up to events, meetings and practices with their service dogs.
Now, if there is no official paperwork, how can you tell if the dog is really a service dog? You are allowed to ask the handler two questions:
- Is the animal is required because of a disability?
- What work or task the animal has been trained to perform?
You are not allowed to ask what the disability is or any other medical questions.
Task is the key word, the animal must be trained to do something; “The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.” (ADA § 36.104 Definitions)
Pretty much, you have to take the handler’s word on it, if they tell you the task that the animal is trained to perform.
So, now the dog is on site, but it’s running loose, barking , growling, snapping or otherwise being a nuisance or danger. Are you stuck? Nope.
Service dogs are supposed to be very well trained in staying calm and obedient while working. If the dog is not calm and obedient, you can ask the handler to control the dog. If that doesn’t work, you can tell the handler to remove the dog from the site, and allow the handler to return without the dog.
What if someone is allergic or afraid of dogs? Unfortunately for that person, the handler is still allowed to bring the dog in. So, something to consider is if your group holds meetings, practices or events at a members house, then those are public events, and service dogs have to be allowed in. If the site host owner doesn’t allow dogs in their home, you may need to look for a new meeting/practice/event site. The site has to be open to all who come.
There are people who will lie and say their pet is a service dog. It’s unfortunate, but true. They may buy a vest that says “service dog” and have a pile of paperwork to show you. The best you can do is ask the allowed questions, and watch the dog and handler. Hopefully, the dog is well behaved and not a nuisance.
More information can be found at these websites:
The East Kingdom Office of the Accessibility Porter
Americans with Disabilities Act Title III Regulations
ADA Service Animal Fact Sheet