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Assistance Animal Week Tips, August 5-11

Accessibility, Assistance Animals

By Maya Abela, Supervisory Attorney

In recognition of International Assistance Dog Week, from August 5-11 the Disability Rights Arizona (DRAZ), formerly Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL) will be posting a series of informational blogs about assistance animal issues on our news page and via social media outlets.

Working Animals: 3 Key Terms You Need to Know

To understand the law about the rights of people with disabilities who have working animals, there are some key terms to know and understand.

  • Service animal is a term used by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to mean a dog (or miniature horse) that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Examples of work of tasks a service animal may be trained to perform for the person with a disability include: fetching items, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, guiding individuals with blindness or low vision, pulling a wheelchair, alerting individuals to coming seizures, and interrupting anxiety episodes or panic attacks.
  • Service animal, when used in the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), means any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support.
  • An emotional support animal is typically a dog or a cat, but can be any kind of domesticated animal (rabbit, bird, etc), that provides emotional support to a person with a disability that alleviates one or more symptom or effect of a person’s disability by its mere presence.
  • Assistance animal is a term used by the Fair Housing Act to mean an animal that is either a service animal or an emotional support animal.

Service animals, emotional support animals, and assistance animals are not pets; they are animals that either work or provide emotional support for a person with a disability.

The main differences between service animals and emotional support animals are the types of animals that can qualify, the training requirement for service animals, and the places where the animal is allowed to go. People with disabilities have the right to obtain professional training services or train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.  Most of the civil rights laws permitting service animals and emotional support animals do not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness or to carry proof of training with them.

Pop Quiz:  If someone’s dog has individually trained to calm them when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a service animal?  The U.S. Department of Justice, one of the federal agencies enforcing the ADA, states: “the ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal.”

Learn more about your rights and stay tuned the rest of the week for the following blog posts in this series:

  • Tuesday, August 5: workplace reasonable accommodations for service animals;
  • Wednesday, August 6: service animal access to public accommodations;
  • Thursday, August 7: traveling by air with a service animal;
  • Friday, August 8: rights to an assistance animal in housing;
  • Saturday, August 9:service and assistance animals in schools and places of higher education; and
  • Sunday, August 10: more information about enforcing your rights to service animals and assistance animals.

You can find our posts on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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