Author Patricia Marx decided to brazen her way through New York restaurants, museums, high-end fashion shops, and other institutions with five “un-cuddly, non-nurturing animals” such as a turtle, snake, and turkey, and some therapist paperwork that was easy enough to procure. [New Yorker] Aside from writing hilariously, she’s well informed about the Americans with Disabilities Act interplay:
Why didn’t anybody do the sensible thing, and tell me and my turtle to get lost? The Americans with Disabilities Act allows you to ask someone with a service animal only two questions: Is the animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the animal been trained to perform? Specific questions about a person’s disability are off limits, and, as I mentioned, people are baffled by the distinction between service animals and emotional-support animals.
Len Kain, the editor-in-chief of dogfriendly.com, a Web site that features pet-travel tips, said, “The law is fuzzy. If you ask one too many questions, you’re in legal trouble for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and could face fines of up to a hundred thousand dollars. But, if you ask one too few questions, you’re probably not in trouble, and at worst will be given a slap on the wrist.”
We’ve been tracking the issue of real and imagined service animals for a long time.
Marcie Davis, founder of International Assistance Dog Awareness Week, noted that ordinary pets passed off as service dogs — often with fake badges, vest, or papers bought off the internet — disrupt public places and eat food at restaurants, bring suspicion on genuine service dogs, and even on occasion get into fights with real service dogs like hers. Davis “said the fakers are also taking advantage of laws that limit the interaction a business owner can have with a disabled person. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits requiring identification documents for a service animal and does not allow any questioning about specifics of a person’s disability.” [CBS Baltimore]
Texas: “Two students say [their federally protected service-animal] rights were violated when the Denison Independent School District ordered them to remove the caps and gowns their service dogs were wearing for graduation…. ‘It’s not that he’s graduating, because he’s not; I’m aware of that,’ [Ms. Brashier] said.” [WFAA]
First the complaint, then the money, now the public accolade: as we noted last month, student Kendra Velzen filed a complaint — and got a $40,000 settlement — after administrators at Grand Valley State University in Michigan declined to allow her emotional-support guinea pig to live with her in the dorm, even though she had a doctor’s note for it. Now the “Fair Housing Center of West Michigan has given … Velzen its annual Outstanding Effort by an Individual award. The group says Velzen was honored for promoting ‘equal housing opportunity for university students throughout the country.'” The center has a previous connection with the case, having assisted Velzen in her complaint. [AP/WILX]
Kendra Velzen had a note from a doctor prescribing the companionship of the rodent, but Grand Valley State University outside Grand Rapids, Mich. nonetheless resisted her request to keep the guinea pig with her at class, in the dorm, and in food service areas. Now school administrators have folded. [Eric Owens, Daily Caller](& Greenfield)
Between 2006 and 2011 the Iowa Civil Rights Commission engaged in a practice of filing housing discrimination charges against landlords, which it would then settle through “donations” that went directly to the commission rather than the state’s general fund, reports Jason Clayworth at the Des Moines Register. “The requests came after sting operations in which representatives of the commission would, for example, pose as prospective tenants and tell landlords over the phone that they needed a service dog for anxiety reasons and quiz them as to whether a pet deposit would apply to them.”
In Connecticut, disability vs. disability: “A cab driver who claims he suffers from cynophobia (a fear of dogs) and who refused to pick up a blind customer with a service dog has filed a federal lawsuit against his employer for discrimination on account of his disability after he was fired.” [Daniel Schwartz]
“A former city worker is suing Indianapolis after she claims the city failed to accommodate the service dog she needs due to her severe allergy to paprika.” The city had already removed certain foods from its vending machines but declined to accept a service dog as reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because a co-worker was allergic to dogs. [WRTV]
In 2005 Jack and Sandra Biegel purchased a unit in Long Island’s Woodbury Gardens, which had a no-pet policy. The next year they acquired a miniature schnauzer to assist with Sandra’s multiple ailments, which included depression and strained breathing. She died the next year. Now the federal government is taking Jack’s side against the co-op in its effort to enforce its rules. [NY Daily News]
A judge has ruled that an elderly Manhattan woman can sue her landlord and a guide-dog provider over a fall she suffered on a step at her building. Gloria Clark argues that her earlier guide dogs had always guided her around a dangerous step over 26 years of living in the building but that while she was auditioning a new guide dog the dog’s trainer did not properly take care against the hazard. [New York Daily News]
The Justice Department has sued the University of Nebraska-Kearney and its regents and employees for allegedly “denying reasonable accommodation requests by students with psychological or emotional disabilities seeking to live with emotional assistance animals in university housing.” [Disability Law]
More/update: Inside Higher Ed.
“City officials in Denver and in the neighboring suburb of Aurora are being sued over their enforcement of dog breed bans. The suit claims the bans violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.” [Arin Greenwood, ABA Journal]
I’ve got a new post up at Cato at Liberty on the politics of not-really-deregulation under the ADA, as new federal rules take effect on service animals. Earlier here, etc.