Thursday, October 23, 2014

If You Want to Have a Service Dog, You Really Need to Understand the Applicable Laws

It seems that many people that have service dogs or want to have them are misinformed or mixed up about the applicable laws.  I know the laws can be confusing, especially in some instances.  For instance, it may be hard to figure out which law applies in certain instances - is a homeless shelter a home?  Then the Fair Housing Act would apply.  Or is it a public accommodation?  Then the Americans with Disabilities Act would apply.  But what if it's run by a church?  What if the shelter is in a church?  Does that make it a religious organization?  Then they would be exempt from the ADA.  See how confusing it can be sometimes?

But it's often not.  The basics are fairly simply, I think.

If you're talking about public places like most business, the ADA applies.  A few things are exempt, including churches and places run by the federal government (like VA hospitals, federal courthouses and post offices - those places get to make their own rules and they may differ from the ADA although they are usually similar).

If you're talking about housing, the Fair Housing Act applies.

If you're talking about airplanes, the  Air Carriers Access Act applies (but only for domestic flights - if you're flying outside the US, different rules might apply).

The ADA only applies to fully trained service dogs, not service dogs in training.  Each state has its own laws about service dogs in training.

The ADA does not apply to emotional support animals, either, only service dogs.

The Fair Housing Act and the Air Carriers Access Act do apply to emotional support animals as well as service dogs.  The Air Carriers Access Act has different rules for psychiatric service dogs and for emotional support animals than for other types of service dogs, however (which is discriminatory against people with mental illnesses and should not be legal, but it is the law currently).

If you start complaining that your landlord is violating the ADA because he says you can't have a service dog in your apartment, you should like you don't know what you're talking about and you're not likely to win that argument.  Your landlord might be violating the Fair Housing Act, but he's not violating the ADA because the ADA does not apply to housing.

In order to make sure your rights are not violated, you need to know what your rights are.  And if you start complaining that your rights are being violated when they're not, or try to claim certain laws give you certain rights when they don't, you sound like you don't know what you're talking about and you lose credibility.  That won't help you achieve the access to which you are entitled.

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