In the city where I work, a few months ago a customer walked into a nonprofit organization’s thrift shop and plunked an unrestrained Chihuahua onto the checkout counter. The customer then handed the volunteer who was working a card that said according to the Americans with Disabilities Act you can be fined up to $10,000, for refusing to serve disabled people who use emotional support animals. A client of the not-for-profit who was working at the checkout counter, who happen to have health problems and an allergy to dogs, which resulted in a “dueling disabilities” scenario.
ADA requires that businesses, that serve the public, refrain from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Business concerns must allow people with disabilities to bring service animals onto their premises in all areas where customers are generally allowed. They cannot segregate people with service animals from other customers. They also cannot charge higher prices, cleaning fees, or require a security deposit. Businesses may charge for damages that service animals cause, as long as it is the usual business practice for any customer who causes damage.
Most of us think of the famous “Seeing Eye” dogs” when we think of service animals, but today a wide variety of animals are used for all sorts of assistive tasks. Animals are used to help people with hearing impairments, detect seizures, obtain help, pull wheelchairs, carry and pick up items, help with balance, and most recently offer emotional support.
If emotional support is included as a assistive task, almost any animal can qualify. In addition to every sort of dog possible, monkeys, goats, miniature horses, ponies, pigs, and even ducks have been used. The duck in question was dressed in doll’s clothing and was routinely taken into places of business. Thankfully some animals such as reptiles, rodents and spiders are exempted from the usual service animal rules.