In a previous episode (Part I), we discussed what exactly a service animal is, and the difference between an emotional support animal and a psychiatric service animal. Today I hope to provide even more clarity into service animal law, particularly with respect to service dogs.
Last week1)true story I was at a restaurant in Henderson with a nice couple that brought along their cute, small pug. After placing an order at the counter, the couple2)neither of the people had a visible disability, not to imply that all disabilities are visible sat down at a table with the little dog in tow. A restaurant employee came over saying “Is that a service animal?” After an affirmative response, the employee said, “I need to see the papers for your dog.” Each of the customers got a guilty look on their faces, then claimed to have forgotten the papers at home. The employee than asked them to sit outside, or leave altogether.
It is possible3)assuming the young couple was lying that everyone involved broke the law. Do not let this happen to you! Let us now go over how public businesses are required to treat service animals4)and their owners, and the law regulating this type of fraudulent behavior in Nevada.
Do I really have to let this creature in my store?
Oh you better believe it. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) supersedes local and state law, meaning you, as a business owner, have to abide by the ADA. The ADA applies to businesses, local government entities, and non-profits5)this is not an exclusive list that serve the public. I will describe the most important elements of the law to help clear up a lot of the confusion out there.
What am I allowed to ask?
This is the most import part of this discussion! Please, please be careful. The Justice Department permits two questions to be asked of a person that arrives at your place of business with a service animal:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What task has the dog been trained to perform?
That is it! No other questions are permitted. Questions like “do you have a disability?” or “do you have proof that your dog is a service animal?” are both inconsiderate and illegal6)Ask FIFA, it is not worth messing around with the Justice Department.
Other good facts to know
Not all service animals have papers evidencing their training. Not all service animals wear the special vests commonly seen on television. In turn, you cannot eyeball a dog coming into your store and know for sure if the animal is one of service.
Additionally, there seem to be a few internet enterprises out there offering to send official-looking certificates/dog vests7)A quick internet search will confirm this for a service animal. These have no legal relevance, and do not make a dog any more or less a service animal.
There are a few legally permissible reasons for disallowing a service animal:
- If dog is behaving in a way that threatens other customers8)barking, growling and so on
- If the area in question is one that needs to be kept sterile, like a kitchen or operating room9)the seating area of a restaurant does not count
- If the dog fundamentally alters the nature of a business. The Justice Department cites a dog barking during a movie as an example.
What about people pretending their pet is a service animal?
Nevada has a statute governing this scenario:
NRS 426.805 Fraudulent misrepresentation of animal as service animal or service animal in training unlawful; penalty.
1. It is unlawful for a person to fraudulently misrepresent an animal as a service animal or service animal in training.
2. A person convicted of fraudulently misrepresenting an animal as a service animal or service animal in training is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500.
(Added to NRS by 2005, 626)
Pretending your dog is a service animal is a misdemeanor. In addition10)although not legally relevant, pretending your dog is a service animal really upsets folks that need service animals. Look at the comments of this article written by a woman confessing that she lies to merchants about her dog being a service animal. Service dog confession
I know as much as I want to take my dog everywhere with me, I have no desire to hurt peoples' feelings to that extent.
|↑2||neither of the people had a visible disability, not to imply that all disabilities are visible|
|↑3||assuming the young couple was lying|
|↑4||and their owners|
|↑5||this is not an exclusive list|
|↑6||Ask FIFA, it is not worth messing around with the Justice Department|
|↑7||A quick internet search will confirm this|
|↑8||barking, growling and so on|
|↑9||the seating area of a restaurant does not count|
|↑10||although not legally relevant|