Law does not protect pets, emotional support dogs in public places

Posted at 6:58 PM, Nov 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-02 22:57:17-04
You see dogs in the produce aisle, at the checkout counter, even in restaurants. But how do you know if they are really supposed to be there?
David in Mesa sent us an email saying he sees dogs just about everywhere.
He sent us pictures taken on different trips to different stores. In one incident he says "Two dogs got into a fight at the checkout counter and caused a major ruckus" and..."We have even witnessed pools of urine at the base of support poles in the stores."
He questions whether or not they were truly service animals. But how can you tell the difference?
Jessa Sterling is a trainer with Power Paws Assistance Dogs in Scottsdale.
She says true service animals are usually easy to spot.
"It's about the dogs behavior.  They do need to be calm under control and focused on their handler when they're in public," she says.
Service dogs (and some miniature horses) are the only animals the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects to be inside public places. Emotional support, therapy dogs and pets are not protected.  
That's because ADA requires that service dogs must be trained to do a specific task to help the person with a disability. Even if the disability is one you can't see.
Sterling says her group trains dogs for mobility assistance, diabetic alert, and post traumatic stress disorder.
Service animals are allowed in restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals and anywhere the public is allowed.
Attorney Sarah Kader with Arizona Center for Disability Law says the animals are an extension of the person they are helping.
"It's like your glasses or your wheelchair--you wouldn't ask that person to come into the restaurant and leave their wheelchair outside," she says.
By law two questions may be asked of the handler: is the dog a service animal and required because of a disability and what task or action is the dog trained to do?
Asking for a demonstration or documentation is against the law. The service animals to do not need to be a part of a national registry and do not need to be identified with a vest.
"If they don't adequately answer those questions and the dog is misbehaving on the premises, your next step (is) to kind of look into maybe this is a pet and should we ask this person to leave," Kader says.
According Kader the vast majority of service animals are highly trained and not disruptive.
"People with disabilities are usually very proud of the training of their animals and proud of how well behaved they are and if anything is going on they are going to be concerned and address that," she says.
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