Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dog owners have special legal rights. The ADA allows service dogs to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where the public is allowed to go. This includes businesses such as stores and restaurants, and public areas such as parks, beaches, and libraries

Under the ADA, a disability is defined as someone who has “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities” or “a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”

Owners of service dogs use their animals to help with a wide variety of disabilities. Generally, the disability can be:

A physical disability, such as mobility issues, blindness, and hearing impairment. A psychiatric condition, such as panic disorder, severe depression, and PTSD.

Regardless of the type of disability the owner has, the service dog must be trained to work or perform tasks related to the disability. In the article, we will address four specific topics.

#1 – A service dog must have special training #2 – Registrations, IDs, vests and other accessories are frequently used and helpful, but optional  #3 – Service dogs have special rights for housing #4 – Service dogs can travel with their handlers, even on flights #1 – A service dog must have special training

By definition, a service dog must be individually trained to work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. The task that the service dog is trained to perform must be directly related to the owner’s disability.

For example, a service dog can be trained to assist a visually impaired person walk around in public environments or to pull a wheelchair for someone with limited mobility. Service dogs also help people with psychiatric conditions by performing tasks such as reminding their owners to take medication or providing pressure therapy during panic or anxiety attacks. 

In addition to the special training a service dog needs to help with a person’s disability, it’s also important for the service dog to master basic obedience training. Under ADA rules, a service dog must always be under the control of its handler. Service dogs must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered (unless it prevents the service dog from effectively performing its tasks). If the use of a harness, leash, or tether is unsuitable, the owner must maintain control of their service dog through voice, signal, or other means. 

A good service dog should be able to maintain discipline and focus on its owner in public areas, especially those that are busy and filled with potentially distracting stimuli. It can be useful to subject the service dog to a public access test to ensure that is ready to enter public environments filled with people, animals, and other distractions. 

A service dog can be trained by a professional or by the handler. There is no requirement to hire a professional or to take any particular course — if the handler is capable, they can train their service dog on their own. Training a dog to perform tasks reliably for a disability takes time, patience, and know-how. 

If you have limited knowledge and experience in training a canine, you may want to consider enlisting the help of a professional dog trainer. A dog trainer can be helpful even if you plan to do most of the training yourself — they can give you a framework for training and useful tips. 

#2 – Registrations, IDs, vests and other accessories are frequently used and helpful, but optional 

When you see a service dog owner out in public, you will often see the dog wearing a vest, and the handler will have an identification card that likely contains a registration number.

Service dog handlers commonly use Service Dog IDs and vest primarily for a couple of reasons:

They help indicate to others in the public that their dog is a working service animal that should not be bothered They help maintain privacy by curbing unwanted and intrusive inquiries about the service dog.

One common misconception regarding service dogs is that there is a legal requirement for them to be registered or to wear a vest. Some people also think that an identification card is mandatory for service dog owners. Contrary to these beliefs, service dog owners are not required to register their dogs, carry IDs, or have their service dogs wear vests.

Service dog owners use these items voluntarily because they are useful. A staff person at a public establishment however cannot demand that a service dog owner show an ID card or put a vest on their dog in order to be granted accommodation on the premises. Many service dog owners find ID cards and vests essential for being out in public. Most people are unaware of the specific details regarding ADA rules, and these tools provide an easy shortcut for service dog handlers to indicate that their dog is not a normal pet. If you’re interested in registering your service dog in a database, you can get started by clicking on the link below.

Once your dog is registered, you can order a service dog ID card, service dog certification, and even order a service dog vest. Again, while these items are optional, many service dog owners find them incredibly helpful. 

All service dog owners should understand they have a right to privacy when they are out in public. If it is obvious what service the service dog provides, staff at a public establishment are not allowed to make any inquiries regarding your service dog. If it is not obvious what service the dog provides, staff can only ask two questions:

Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and if so, What work or task has the dog been trained to perform.

They can’t ask a service dog owner for further details regarding their disability or require that the handler demonstrate that the dog can perform the task it has been trained for. 

#3 – Service dogs have special rights for housing

Service dogs have special housing rights that are not granted to normal pets. If you are a service dog owner, you are permitted under Fair Housing rules to live with your service dog, even if your building has a strict policy that bans all pets. For purposes of Fair Housing laws, service dogs are not considered pets, and any policy that may apply to pets are inapplicable. 

For example, if the building allows pets but not dogs over 50 pounds, or the building bans certain breeds such as Pitbulls or Great Danes, those rules do not apply to service dogs. A housing provider cannot prevent a tenant from keeping a service dog in their home because the dog is of a certain breed or weight. 

A landlord can only deny accommodation of a service dog in limited circumstances, such as if they determine that the service dog poses a safety or health threat to others. As with all service dogs, landlords can only verify a disabled person’s need for a service dog by asking the two questions discussed in the previous section. Unlike an emotional support animal which requires a letter of recommendation from a licensed healthcare professional, a service dog does not need any documented credentials. 

#4 – Service dogs can travel with their handlers, even on flights

Service dogs are also allowed to travel and fly with their handler. This means they can ride on public transportation such as trains and buses, and also in taxis. Under the Air Carrier Access Act, service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners in the airplane cabin as well.

Travelling can be a stressful experience for any dog. It’s important that a service dog has been trained to handle situations such as crowded airports, trains, and airplane cabins. A service can be denied accommodation if it is disruptive and not under the control of its handler. Service dogs intended to be used for travel should be exposed to a wide variety of situations, so they remain calm when faced with novel environments. It’s important to properly acclimate a service dog for the type of journey you’re taking. For example, it’s recommended to start with shorter trips on a plane or the bus so your service dog can learn to maintain their composure when flying with you through turbulence on longer trips or on a bus or train when it is crowded and bumpy.

If you are ready to register your service dog, click on the image below.

We have been receiving more and more requests on how to handle uncooperative apartment management companies and landlords. If you feel that you are being discriminated against for having a service dog, we suggest contacting the HUD to file a complaint. If you are unsure if your dog qualifies as a service dog, you may read this article

[h/t BX Times]

The NYC Commission on Human Rights recently won its case in defense of a resident of Parkchester South Condominiums who was threatened with eviction over her service dog.

Michelle Berrios, a nurse practitioner who has lived in her condo for nearly 30 years, started butting heads with management in March 2015 over its ‘no pets’ policy.

A Parkchester security guard wrote her a ticket for owning a toy poodle named Brownie, according to a CHR news release.

Parkchester is a complex of 171 buildings and roughly 12,000 apartments.

Parkchester South Condominium, Inc. owns the buildings in the south and west portion of the complex.

Parkchester Preservation Management, which manages the rental units, agreed to the following terms in a conciliation agreement negotiated with CHR in July 2017:

• Allows Berrios to keep her dog in her apartment.

• Paid Berrios $15,000 in emotional distress damages.

• Paid $81,250 in civil penalties to New York City for willful violations of the NYC Human Rights Law.

• Paid an additional $10,000 for breach of prior settlement agreement in another emotional support animal disability case.

After receiving the violation, Berrios went to the management office to explain that Brownie was an emotional support animal that ameliorates symptoms of her disabilities, including anxiety, migraines, and fibromyalgia.

But days later, Berrios received a notice from management stating she was in violation of her lease for harboring a dog and that if she didn’t resolve the violation, she would be evicted.

The next week, Berrios visited the condo’s offices again to clear up the violation and gave them a doctor’s note.

A management representative again denied her the accommodation and reportedly responded, “We’ll see you in court.”

So, Berrios filed a complaint with the CHR on April 2, 2015, charging PPM and Parkchester South Condominiums with discrimination because of her disability for refusing to grant her an accommodation that allows her to keep her emotional support dog.

Despite exceptions allowing residents to own service or emotional support animals, Parkchester had further restricted its policies illegally, according to the CHR .

“The policies include overly burdensome and intrusive standards governing waivers to its ‘no-dogs’ rule that impede people with disabilities from obtaining reasonable accommodat­ions,” according to Seth Hoy, Human Rights spokesperson.

Management had a narrow and arbitrary list of disabilities upon which they granted accommodations, according to Hoy, requiring tenants to provide a “diagnosis letter” describing how the assistance animals “assist the tenants with activities of daily life,” limiting those activities to physical “self-care tasks” including bathing, showering, dressing, eating, feeding, functional mobility, personal device care, personal hygiene, and toilet hygiene.

That list illegally prohibited tenants with mental disabilities from obtaining a reasonable accommodation to have a comfort animal.

It is illegal under the NYC Human Rights Law to discriminate against tenants with disabilities, including mental.

The commission amended the initial complaint in February 2016 with additional charges after its investigation uncovered “pattern or practice” discrimination and found that PPM retaliated against Berrios after she requested the accommodation and filed a complaint with the commission.

The CCHR investigation also uncovered additional discriminatory policies that prompted the commission to file additional charges on the city’s behalf for “pattern or practice” violations in February 2016.

Only accepting “diagnosis letters” from a physician and not granting accommodations to tenants with letters from treating clinicians, including psychologists, licensed master social workers, or physician’s assistants, violates the law, according to Hoy.

It is also unlawful to request medical information from tenants beyond what is necessary to grant an accommodation, including how long the physician has been treating the tenant, how long the tenant has been diagnosed with the medical issue, and how long they have had their dog.

Berrios testified that she “was dependent on this dog. She’s all I have. She keeps me relaxed. I take less medicine because of her.”

After management unlawfully denied her request for a reasonable accommodation to keep her dog, she told the commission she was physically ill and suffered heart palpitations. She said she didn’t know how she could go on without Brownie.

As a result Parkchester management has agreed to make changes to its policies, including:

• tenants asking for an accommodation to keep an emotional support animal will not be required to show that the animal assists with physical tasks such as getting dressed and walking.

• not deny requests because the tenant got an assistance animal before asking for a reasonable accommodation.

• not require people requesting accommodation to provide medical records or information about their disability beyond that which is minimally sufficient to demonstrate the relationship between the disability and the requested accommodation.

• accept notes from a range of health care providers, including treating licensed social workers, as corroboration of the need for reasonable accommodation.

• not require all assistance animals to complete behavioral training. They may require specific animals that have demonstrated behavioral issues to complete training.

• give residents the option of getting a tag for their assistance animal so that Parkchester security can see that the animal is permitted to be in the complex without having to stop the resident, thus diminishing harassment of residents by the security.

• provide notice of the policy to residents and staff by posting the policy in the buildings, on their website, and through mailings.

• have staff trained on the policy and the NYC Human Rights Law.

• change their policies and procedures to pause eviction proceedings based on the presence of an animal in order to allow for time for reasonable accommodation requests to be made and considered.

• be subject to monitoring by the commission. Keep records related to reasonable accommodations and assistance animals and provide them to commission upon request.

• provide notice of these policies to residents and staff by posting policies on their website, in buildings, mailing notices to residents, giving staff notice of policies and training supervisory, security, legal, and resident staff on the policies and the NYC Human Rights Law.

If you also have a dog that you have trained as your service dog, you may register your Service Dog and order your Service Dog license.

[h/t BX Times]

Therapy dogs fulfill a wide range of needs. They can provide a welcome distraction for students during stressful exam periods, provide affection and companionship to seniors and give comfort and joy to patients recovering from illnesses in hospitals. Therapy dogs can provide people of all ages with unconditional love, a furry hug, and some much-needed stress relief.

What is a Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog is a dog that has undergone training to provide comfort and support to people, often in group settings. Therapy dogs provide help to people other than their owner, while service dogs and emotional support dogs directly assist their owners with a physical or mental health condition. Therapy dogs can frequently be found working in environments such as schools, retirement homes, hospitals, workplaces, disaster sites, nursing homes, and hospices. 

There are three basic steps involved in certifying a therapy dog:  Adopt a dog that has the appropriate demeanor and intelligence to serve as a therapy dog.  Train the dog to provide comfort and support to others, including in group settings at a variety of locations.  Optionally register your trained therapy dog with an organizationsuch as Service Dog Certifications

In this article, we’ll explore how a regular dog can become a therapy dog. We will also explain the key differences between a therapy dog and a service dog or emotional support dog, especially when it comes to the rights of their handlers. 

Types of Therapy Animals

Therapy animals are commonly dogs, but they can be any type of domesticated animal that has been trained to provide comfort and support to individuals and groups that are experiencing distress. These animals can provide this service just through their presence – animals are known to have a calming effect on people – but can also be trained to perform tasks. For example, a therapy dog can be trained to lie down for pets, perform tricks to provide a welcome distraction for patients, or provide comforting paw pressure to someone struggling with anxiety. 

Any breed of dog can qualify as a therapy dog, as long as they have the proper temperament and intelligence. A good therapy dog should have the ability to be around groups of people and remain calm and dedicated to their tasks. A therapy dog must be able to remain focused even if the individuals around it are in distress. Proper socialization for a therapy dog is key. A therapy dog will come into contact with many strangers, so it’s critical to ensure that the dog has the proper demeanor and behavioral aptitude for the job. 

Therapy dogs often work in various environments, some of which can be chaotic such as a school, hospital, or disaster area. A therapy animal handler has to be able to ensure that their dog will remain alert, calm, and responsive to their commands in any situation. A therapy dog also has to handle surprises as small children and people suffering from mental health issues may act erratically. For example, a therapy dog should remain calm even as a classroom full of excited squealing children approach it or in a hospital with distracting noises and doctors and nurses bustling back and forth. Due to these potentially stressful environments, it is also important that a therapy dog handler takes care to ensure that the therapy dog is not being overworked or stressed and is given the opportunity for plenty of breaks and periods of rest. A therapy dog should enjoy their work in assisting others. 

Even though dogs are traditionally the most commonly used animal in the therapy world, other species can also perform this important work. These include:

Cats – Although they may not be as “transportable” as canines, some nursing homes have made cats a permanent part of their elderly care regimen. A resident feline at a nursing home can weave in and out of the patient’s rooms and, if the mood strikes, may even choose to stay for a snooze or a snuggle. A daily visit from a cat can brighten even the darkest of moods. Equine – Horses are being used to help individuals that are dealing with things like drug abuse, learning disabilities or rehabilitation. Teaching a person how to trust and interact with a creature such as a horse can have invaluable benefits. Small Animals – Guinea pigs and rabbits are also being used for therapy work. These small furry animals are easy to manage and can be of great comfort, especially for individuals that may be fearful of dogs and/or cats. Do I need an Emotional Support Dog or a Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog provides comfort for others, but if you are in need of your own comfort animal with you at all times, an emotional support animal (ESA) is probably more appropriate. Emotional support animals are a recognized type of assistance animal under federal housing laws in addition to various state laws. ESAs are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act; they are permitted to accompany their owners in residences (even if the building bans pets) free of charge. 

Emotional support animals are commonly dogs and cats, but they can be any type of small, domesticated animal. ESAs do not require any special training – they provide comfort and support for mental health conditions just through their companionship.

In order to qualify for an emotional support animal, you need a letter of recommendation from a licensed healthcare professional. The licensed professional will determine whether you have a condition that qualifies for an emotional support animal and whether an emotional support animal would help with that condition. Emotional support animals are used for various mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and phobias. If you have an ESA letter, you can submit it to your landlord for the accommodation of your emotional support animal. Here is a link to a post on how to get an emotional support animal letter.

What is the difference between a Service Dog and a Therapy Dog?

A service dog assists just its owner with their disability, while a therapy dog is expected to interact with other people and provide them with therapeutic support. Service dog owners generally do not want members of the public interfering with their dogs while they are on duty. 

Service dogs have special rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and are allowed to go to public areas such as grocery stores, restaurants, libraries, entertainment venues, and hotels. A service dog is trained to perform specific tasks to assist its owner with a disability. For example, a service dog can be its owner’s eyes or ears, pick up dropped items, retrieve medications, “call” emergency services and even alert the owner to a drop in blood sugar or of an oncoming seizure.

Service dogs help many disabled individuals live a normal independent life that may not otherwise be possible. Therapy dogs are not considered service dogs under the ADA. Service dogs have the right to accompany their owners in public venues, housing and flights, but therapy dogs do not have that same right. A therapy dog is intended to work for others and must be invited to places such as schools and hospitals to work with the individuals there. You can learn more about service dog laws here

How Do I Register My Therapy Dog?

If you’re interested in owning a therapy dog and providing services for individuals and organizations, the most critical step is properly training your dog. As previously discussed, a therapy dog has to be thoroughly trained to calmly and confidently deal with strangers in a range of potentially busy environments. 

There is no universal standard for the qualification of a therapy dog. There are various organizations that provide training courses and certification programs. Many therapy dog owners choose to train their dogs by themselves. If you’re interested in working as a therapy dog handler, it’s important to understand what type of experience and qualifications the organizations and individuals you hope to work with are seeking. 

Registering your therapy dog or obtaining an identification card is completely optional and not mandatory. Many therapy dog handlers, however, obtain ID cards and register their animal in a database to help things go more smoothly on the job. Having an ID card or vest, for example, helps therapy dog handlers signal that they are at a location to work, and the therapy dog is on the premises as an invited guest to provide therapeutic support. 

In a similar way that service dog owners frequently use accessories such as ID badges, certificates, and vests to help signal to members of the public that their animals are on duty, therapy dog owners also use these items to help identify themselves and their dogs as part of a pet therapy team. 

Do I need a special letter for my Therapy Dog?

Unlike an emotional support animal, you do not need a letter of recommendation for a therapy dog. It is up to the organization or individual you are working for to determine whether they want to hire you and your therapy dog. A therapy dog works on location as an invited guest of the facility; it may not be necessary to present a letter or certification when showing up for work. 

Therapy, ESA and Service Work is For the Dogs

Whether your dog is a therapy dog, an emotional support animal, or a service canine, the work these animals do is vital in the lives of many people. Each type of dog has very different legal rights and qualification procedures, so it’s critical to understand the differences between them. No matter what type of assistance animal they are, these dogs help people live their lives with unconditional love, freedom, and independence.