Saturday, April 30, 2011

Service animals

There has been controversy brewing about what constitutes a legal service animal. New federal guidelines issued just last month by the U.S. Department of Justice for the Americans with Disabilities Act limit service animals to dogs and housebroken miniature horses, but the recommendations are not binding to states and municipalities.

Rats? A Hesperia, California, woman has lobbied the city council to allow her to continue using her rat (1st image), which alerts her to spasms she can't feel because of spinal nerve injuries.

Lizards? A disabled veteran has been allowed to keep his service lizards - an iguana (2nd image), a skink, and a bearded dragon - in his San Francisco apartment.

Monkeys? New Orleans police confiscated 4 monkeys from a Florida tourist and her caretaker that they said provide her comfort and emotional support for her autism. She and the monkeys were dressed as pirates at the time and posing for photos in the French Quarter. A Missouri woman sued Walmart (and lost) for the right to shop with a monkey that helps her with social anxiety disorder.

Ferrets? A couple in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was kicked out of a local mall for carrying a ferret (3rd image) that alerts the woman when her husband is about to have a siezure.

Snakes? A man from Shelton, Washington, lobbied the state not to narrow the definition of service animals and thereby prevent him from carrying a snake that hugs him when he is about to have an epileptic seizure.

Birds? A St. Louis man carries a service parrot on his shoulder to help control his psychotic tendencies.

Pigs? The pot-bellied pig used as a service animal by a North Carolina family with a daughter who has seizures and a son with Down's Syndrome was accidentally shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy who mistook it for a wild boar.

When the Transportation Department liberalized its definition of service animals in 2003, it created problems for the airlines - and a backlash from other travelers, on of whom commented on-line, “I kinda feel I have the right not to have a goat in the seat next to me, no matter how comforting its presence is to the third person in the row.” But sometimes it's not the species that is called into question, it's the legitimacy of traditional animals. Service animals are intended to guide the blind, signal the hearing-impaired, and assist persons with other disabilities. But some dog owners just want to be able to bring their animals with them into stores and restaurants, so their pets become impostors, wearing "therapy dog" vests and bearing service animal credentials - both of which can be purchased on-line. They get away with fraud because their would-be accusers are afraid to ask any questions other than the legally-sanctioned "Is this a service dog for disabilities?" and "What tasks or assistance does the dog provide you with?"

1 comment:

  1. So why isn't the debate about "What conditions must animals fulfill in order to be allowed into stores and restaurants?"


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