Iffy Support Animals Breeding Litigation
March 6, 2018
A legal controversy is brewing over the question of what constitutes a service or “support animal” and thus can be brought into stores and other venues, including aircraft. Back in the day the concept was pretty circumscribed, at least in the common perception. Everyone knew that blind people sometimes had “seeing-eye dogs,” and often they were even-tempered German shepherds, beloved by all. The value of service animals is now more widely acknowledged and the category has been expanding to include a variety of support animals, including dogs for emotional and other support purposes, and other species as well. But according to some critics, and some businesses that have run into problems, it’s gone too far and now can include something very much like garden-variety pets – or potentially more problematic, exotic pets that have been given the medical imprimatur by a friendly physician or other professional, for whom there is no real downside. The looming legal issue is aired in an article from Thomson Reuters. “Issues surrounding the definition of ‘support animal’ permeate different areas of law including: travel, labor, and employment law, especially with regards to the Americans with Disabilities Act and state-specific disability laws, and the Fair Housing Act,” writes Kelsey Gilmore. “This year airlines have seen an increase in the number of passengers with emotional support animals. Notably, a passenger recently attempted to board a plane with an emotional support peacock. Similarly, an emotional support hamster was denied access with its owner, and faced a tragic end.” This article points out relevant statutes, and it cites some current and proposed legislation, state and federal, that may provide more clarification.
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