Wednesday, January 07, 2009

No Monkeys Allowed?: Limitations on Service Animals

Those of you familiar with my writings know that interconnectedness of us and all other creatures with which we share the planet is one of my major themes. So, I was delighted to read Rebecca Skloot's story, Creature Comforts, in the NY Times about all types of service animals and how they help people with disabilities. And you can imagine how dismayed I was to read on Rebecca's blog, Culture Dish, that the Department of Justice is trying to limit the types of animals that can be used for service animals, so I am partially reposting her entry in the hopes of bringing attention to this matter and stimulating action:

"NEWSFLASH: In this weekend's New York Times Magazine, I reported that the Department of Justice had proposed a ban on guide miniature horses, service monkeys, and other non-canine assistance animals (brief overview of the story and legal issues here, several follow up posts here). In my story, I mentioned that no one knew whether the DOJ had removed the species ban from their proposal after the public hearings this summer.

Well, I just got an email from a source who's seen a leaked version of the latest DOJ regulations, and the agency has in fact made the species ban more restrictive. Its initial proposal would have allowed cats and other commonly domesticated animals (perhaps including parrots). But the current version (which the DOJ approved on 12/3 and is now pending final approval by the OMB), limits service animals to only dogs.

The outpouring of response I've gotten from this article has been predominantly opposed to the idea of banning non-canine animals. Folks have asked who they should contact to speak out in favor of these animals, since the final proposal is still awaiting approval. For those interested, you can contact the Department of Justice here, and the OMB here. You can also contact your government representatives and state senators to let them know about the issue. (Update for those who've asked: The relevant way to reference this issue is as, The DOJ's proposed ADA regulations that would ban the use of any species other than dogs as service animals. The exact regulation in question is 'Title III Regulation 28 CFR Part 36: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities.' "

The rest of Rebecca's post and comments can be found here, and her update here.

Is there really a rational basis to limiting ADA service animals to dogs? What am I missing here?

1 comment:

Kelly Hills said...

It seems to me that one of the key things to getting this ban modified to include a variety of service animals will be documenting the number of valid non-canine service animals. Rebecca's quad-assisting monkey's (from the article) are a great start at that, as is the very valid point that not everyone is capable of having dogs (due to the disability they need a service animal for, or even the much more prosaic fact of life issue that some people are allergic to dogs).

Writing physical letters that can call specific attention to facts - facts that can be checked by interns and other assistants - seems like it will do the most good.

(I'd also suggest anyone in New York also write Governor Patterson - while he's not directly involved in this, he is involved in sitting the replacement senator, and being blind, is a likely ally in this particular fight.)