“You Can’t Have That Dog Here!”

By: Joel Allen

Folks, I have been listening to the public, and just the other day I received a call that someone’s landlord was telling them they could not have their service dog because the property does not allow dogs. Those who own property and are landlords need to listen up. Here is what the Americans with Disabilities Act website (www.ada.gov) defines as a service animal:

Q: What is a service animal?

A: The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Then I get another call and someone has been told they can’t have their service dog because of its breed and size. By the ADA Law this discrimination is not allowed. So, here is another ADA answer below. But wait, don’t take my word for it. Fact check me by going to the ADA.

Q. Can service animals be any breed of dog?

A. Yes. The ADA does not restrict the type of dog breeds that can be service animals.

Q. Do apartments, mobile home parks, and other residential properties have to comply with the ADA?

A. The ADA applies to housing programs administered by state and local governments, such as public housing authorities, and by places of public accommodation, such as public and private universities. In addition, the Fair Housing Act applies to virtually all types of housing, both public and privately-owned, including housing covered by the ADA. Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers are obligated to permit, as a reasonable accommodation, the use of animals that work, provide assistance, or perform tasks that benefit persons with disabilities, or provide emotional support to alleviate a symptom or effect of a disability. For information about these Fair Housing Act requirements see HUD’s Notice on Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-funded Programs.

To landlords or those who own property and rent houses out to the public, there can be no breed discrimination or limit of the size of the service dog(s). Sometimes when I am told about these discriminations I ask, “Have you filed a complaint through the ADA?” Most people don’t think to do this, but when they do, it can be very effective against those who are ignorant. Believe me, the wheels of justice turn slowly. The reason I say this is because ADA’s response could take anywhere from a month to six months; they have a lot of people like yourself who also have filed complaints.

Lastly, I will leave everyone with this true story. Many years ago, I had an incident where I was shopping in a mall in Huntsville, Alabama. I was approached by a Huntsville police sergeant who stated, “I have numerous complaints about you and your dog.” This police sergeant approached me and Zues, who was a Great Dane. Zues sat on the floor and never growled or barked but just remained calm and watched. I turned toward the officer and stated, “This is my service dog.” The officer responded, “According to the back of your shirt, you’re a dog trainer.” I said, “Yes, I am a dog trainer, but this dog is my service dog.” “Why do you need a Service Dog?” he asked. I replied, “According to the ADA Law, you are allowed to ask me two questions: Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”

This police officer, it turned out, was working part time for the mall and when I informed him of this law, he became irate with me and stated, “That is just ridiculous!” I said, “Sergeant, here is the Department of Justice’s phone number.” He took down the number and after he said some more things, I informed him he was now violating federal law. I was not being confrontational, but I felt that he wished I would say or do something that would be considered disorderly. During the whole situation Zues remained calm. We soon left the mall, and I have only been back maybe two more times since this incident happened in 2010. Remember, folks, police officers are only doing their jobs when they question anyone. Be respectful to them because they are here to protect and serve us. Also, be very diplomatic when dealing with a situation like this regardless of whether it is a store manager or police officer because their experience with us will directly affect the next individual who has a service dog…and it could turn out good or bad depending on the examples we set.

By: Joel Allen