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No dogs allowed ... or are they?

Whether or not dogs are allowed in public buildings depends on varied factors.
Whether or not dogs are allowed in public buildings depends on varied factors.
Susan DeMaggio

Government agencies offer guidelines on bringing Fido into public buildings

Since La Jolla Light readers are reporting with greater frequency, seeing dogs in public buildings (grocery stores, post offices, banks, department stores), we asked the County of San Diego to outline the rules on the practice.

The Law and Service Dogs

Service dogs that perform tasks to assist a person with disabilities are allowed anywhere their person goes. According to the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) publication on Service Animals, these animal are defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”

The regulations further state, “State and local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.”

However, the publication goes on to say service animals must be harnessed, leashed or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, “the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal or other effective controls.”

Another document addressing Service Animals and the ADA goes on to explain, “In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: 1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? 2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Staff (members) are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.”

A service animal is not required to wear a vest, ID tag or specific harness.

The Law and Support Dogs

Concerning the issue of “emotional support” animals, often used by those with anxiety and depression, the U.S. Department of Justice does not consider them to be service animals.

According to Department of Justice policy, the terms “emotional support,” “therapy” or “comfort” 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.”

However, for those with Post Traumatic Street Disorder (PTSD), “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.

Some State and local laws also define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the State Attorney General’s office.”

No Dogs Allowed Near Food

When it comes to dogs in places where food is sold or served, County Department of Environmental Health communications officer Alex Bell explained that as of last year, dogs are allowed on restaurant patios, but dogs are not allowed in grocery stores, convenience stores and restaurants.

The Guidelines for Allowing Dogs Into Outdoor Patio Dining state, “Patrons may only bring dogs into outdoor patio dining areas directly from outdoors. The dog may not go through any other part of the food facility.” However, “the presence of dogs in the outdoor dining area must not create a sanitation nuisance” and “Make sure your dog is well-behaved and on a leash. Food and Housing Division expects operators to exclude undisciplined, uncontrolled and/or aggressive dogs.”

Bell added, via e-mail, “If customers observe a non-service animal within a food establishment, they can file a formal complaint by e-mailing fhdcomplaints@sdcounty.ca.gov or calling the complaint line at (858) 505-6903, and the County Department of Environmental Health will follow up.

Dogs in Public Buildings

“If there is no food being prepared or served — such as a bank for example — it is up to the business owner to allow dogs in or not. In any case, the dog has to be well-behaved and trained,” Bell explained. Patrons who wish to bring a dog into a business should look for signage that reads either No Dogs Allowed or Pet Friendly.

— For more information, visit ada.gov

CORRECTION

In the printed story, the role and definition of a service dog versus a support dog may have been unclear in terms of the use of those animals by people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After receiving additional information, the La Jolla Light has learned that the DOJ defines service animals in its Disability Rights Section under ADA Requirements as follows:

“Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.

Some State and local laws also define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the State Attorney General’s office.”

The La Jolla Light apologizes for any confusion the original report may have caused. Service animals are indeed used by people dealing with PTSD. To read more visit, ada.gov