9 Aug 14

By Randy Pierce

Autumn is fascinated by the butterfly that has landed near her.First and foremost, Autumn did NOT eat any butterflies. She did, however, accompany me to the Butterfly Place. They absolutely welcome service animals and in fact were as warm and kind with Autumn as they had been with Ostend and Quinn in their visits to this wonderful opportunity just a few short miles from our home.

They did once have a potential service animal run amok in their facility and even eat a couple of butterflies. It’s sad that I have to say “potential” service animal but a proliferation of fraudulent approaches coupled with inappropriate behavior is a significant concern at present.

Any service animal acting inappropriately may be and should be requested through the handler to depart. As a handler, it is our responsibility to ensure our dogs are properly prepared for any and all environments to which we are bringing them. It is our job to maintain control over our service animal as we work with them to benefit from their training to provide us with their service. This is something well taught at Guiding Eyes and likely all Dog Guide schools. While the occasional failure may occur, it is more common with the fraudulent situations and leads to questions about how best to manage the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Anyone being expected to grant access to a Service Dog has the right to inquire:

  1. Do you have a disability?
  2. What service is the dog trained to perform for you?

Those two questions and the right to request that inappropriate behavior cease immediately or that the dog be removed from the premises are the means to protect business owners. Truthfully, many are intimidated by the entire process. Wanting to not restrict appropriate access or fear of litigation causes a paralysis of action and may allow those abusing the system with fraudulent service animals or misbehaving service animals to cause significant problems. As much as I have been frustrated by illegal service denial in the past, I am similarly disheartened by the animal users who perform an equal injustice.

Autumn poses behind a large wooden butterfly with her head peeking out

This is why I will always strive to ensure Autumn and I are prepared for all of the situations we encounter. I want to open lines of communication in every way possible and I want to savor experiences like the marvels of the Butterfly Place for both Autumn and me… as well as the many others sharing the experience with us. I hope many others give their personal responsibility an equal due diligence and get to savor the experiences as well!

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2 Comments.

  • Kathleen Fencil says:

    Good girl Miss Autumn. Oh How I would have loved to see you with all the temptations of that lovely Butterfly Place. I hope your master rewarded you with a special treat for your appropriate work today. And Randy thank you for once again informing us from both sides of the rights, responsibilities, and expectations.

  • Randy says:

    A reader pointed out to me that the ADA had slightly adjusted the language of the law and while it’s almost the same there is a slight semantic difference worth noting. Thanks to her for the update and I include her anonymous sharing below. I do believe that the basics would resolve similarly with good and proper communication but in this instance there is a change I should note and with thanks I do so now:

    A business owner is not in fact allowed to ask if you have a disability. They may only ask if the animal is a service animal required due to a disability. I copied and pasted the two questions below from the ADA revised law of 2011.

    “When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.”

    I point this out because it may seem like semantics but even my most recent guide dog instructor stated it as you did in your story, with the question of “do you have a disability” as being appropriate.

    My opinion is that the wording that the ADA provides is very important. Consider this scenario- say you are Ill in the hotel room and Tracey or another party needs to take the dog out. If they were asked if they had a disability it would not be the case. But in face the dog is a service animal required for a disability.

    I can’t tell you for certain why the law is written this way but in my opinion it should be relayed this why during education.

    Thanks again for all the work you do in raising awareness and supporting GEB through your fundraising efforts.




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