Photo by Brenda Lin

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was put in place to protect the rights of people with disabilities. More specifically, the law protects people who need service animals from discrimination by businesses. While businesses are permitted to ask if a dog is a service animal and what tasks it performs, they cannot ask for proof of the animal’s services or training. Businesses are only allowed to have an animal removed if it is out of control or a threat to people’s health and safety. While I agree with the overall sentiment of the law, I disagree with some of its provisions.

Primarily, that someone cannot be asked for a special ID for their animal. By preventing businesses from confirming if an animal is indeed a service animal, both people and service animals are put at risk. Within the last month, a seeing eye dog was attacked by a pit bull on the Sacramento Light Rail transit system. While the service animal was only mildly injured, the incident should have never happened. Initially, the pit bull’s owner claimed the dog was a service animal; but once police began looking into the attack, he admitted that the dog was just a pet. Most people with legitimate service animals would prefer to be asked for proof rather than allow able-bodied people to lie about whether their animal is trained or not. It should be the government’s responsibility to issue an ID that proves an animal is trained for a specific task in addition to changing the law to allow businesses to ask for such an ID. Because they are allowed in restaurants and places where food is sold, service animals have to be extremely well behaved, and most pets are not well mannered enough to safely be in food preparation areas.

While businesses are allowed to remove an animal for health and safety reasons, allergies do not count as a valid safety concern in all but severe cases. I have severe allergies to most animals including dogs, the most common service animal, which leads to asthma attacks, hives and swelling. Day to day, my allergies don’t cause any problems; however, they can become debilitating if I’m in a closed space with an animal. In most public spaces, it’s fairly easy to avoid animals, but sometimes there’s no escape.

Earlier in February, the Supreme Court sided with a student, Ehlena Fry, who fought to bring her service dog to school. The school cited students with allergies and one student with a fear of dogs as their reason for not allowing the animal. Fry’s dog was considered a hypoallergenic breed. It may seem like hypoallergenic breeds would prevent health problems, however most allergists believe there is no such thing. The school also provided Fry with a one-on-one aid to help with mobility, which they claimed was sufficient under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Despite the recent ruling, another parent is attempting to work with their child’s school to avoid dogs. Ashley Anne Misinkavitch worries about her son Parker’s severe anaphylactic reaction to dogs. Parker has been admitted to the hospital three times because of his allergy, but his mom isn’t trying to prevent others from having dogs. She believes that the school should be required to provide accommodations for Parker, like they are required to for disabled students.

The law protects both parties but that protection only works if we acknowledge that allergies are not only caused by direct contact and that hypoallergenic dogs don’t exist. Accommodations shouldn’t only be required for “significant allergic reactions” because even mild reactions can be debilitating.

I want to end by saying, I’m not against service animals, but I think too many people forget that there are drawbacks. Service animals are not the perfect solution to everything and we need to take all disabilities into account in public spaces.

  • Gabriel Barros

    It’s the price we all pay so sociopaths can have their fighting breed dogs.

    Pit bulls were bred for over a century to kill their own kind.

    The American Pit Bull Terrier (HISTORY OF FIGHTING DOGS Series)
    by Joseph L. Colby

    ISBN-13: 978-1846642562

    Originally published in 1936, this book is extremely rare in its early editions. Hugely informative and in-depth, it is a complete treatise on the breed covering the entire field, with particular emphasis on dog-fighting.

  • Todd Smith

    No.
    We are not second class citizens who must beg the government for permission to simply be present in the public venue.
    We are equal to you.
    We have the exact same civil rights as you.
    The exact same.
    If YOU do not have to show an ‘ID’ to simply enter a business which is open to the public, then neither do WE.
    That’s equality of access under the law.

    I am unsure just why our being equal to you bothers you so much.
    Your proposal is disturbing on many levels.
    Why not just have us be forced to wear a big six pointed yellow star which says ‘Disabled’ clearly visible on the outside of all our clothing? Then you wouldnt even have to ask us for our papers, Ja?

  • Todd Smith

    My reply to someone on another thread, regarding how they want us to be forced to have a ‘universal symbol’ on our service dogs, and how we haven’t ‘listened’ to their suggestions.
    I believe it is appropriate here as well.

    “We have listened.
    You have told us that we need to be approved by the government to enter businesses.
    We have told you that we will not do that, and that the already existing laws are well sufficient to deal with the issue IF the businesses actually used them as written.
    The thing is: You are not a person with a disability who uses a service animal, so your proposals will not personally affect you, so it’s no big deal to you.
    Throughout human history, it has always been easy for a majority to impose their will upon a minority, especially if the minority (in this case, people with disabilities who happen to use a service dog) have already been marginalized as individuals, grouped together by class, and forced by the government to give up their civil rights in the interest of ‘making things easier’ for the affected minorities, and that ‘it’s better for them in the long run’. All the while, the majority is not affected in any way by said ‘easier’ requirements, so there’s no problem for them in attempting to implement such.

    That is the real issue here.
    You are not affected.
    We are.

    We know how our disabilities affect us. We know best how to mitigate them.
    While the intentions of the majority may seem to be harmless and even helpful, said intentions are not based on an experiential platform, so in the end are meaningless.
    All we wish for is to be left alone and allowed to live as equals.
    That’s not causing anyone else any harm.”

  • bohicasis

    It appears the OP is making reference to service animals setting off occasional allergy attacks and this concerns her/him. Closed spaces could be as open as a mall or as closed as an elevator. Removing a service animal, or any animal, will not protect a person with severe or less than severe allergies. Animal dander is carried on shoes, clothing and is also airborne. I doubt folks will remove their clothing, shoes and personal effects prior to entering a public facility. I know folks who utilize airmasks, antihistamines and epi pens to mitigate their allergies. That said,protection IS GIVEN under the ADA for those folks who have allergies listed as their disabling condition. Perhaps the OP, and anyone who is considered disabled under the guidelines, could familiarize themselves with their rights under the ADA instead of diverting their attention to what is outside of their personal remedies.
    As far as bringing forth new laws and registration concerning identification for a disabled individual to utilize a medical device, no thank you.

  • bohicasis

    It appears the author is making reference to service animals setting off
    occasional allergy attacks and this concerns her/him. Closed spaces
    could be as open as a mall or as closed as an elevator. Removing a
    service animal, or any animal, will not protect a person with severe or
    less than severe allergies. Animal dander is carried on shoes, clothing
    and is also airborne. I doubt folks will remove their clothing, shoes
    and personal effects prior to entering a public facility. I know folks
    who utilize airmasks, antihistamines and epi pens to mitigate their
    allergies. That said,protection IS GIVEN under the ADA for those folks
    who have allergies listed as their disabling condition. Perhaps the author,
    and anyone who is considered disabled under the guidelines, could
    familiarize themselves with their rights under the ADA instead of
    diverting their attention to what is outside of their personal remedies.
    As far as bringing forth new laws and registration concerning
    identification for a disabled individual to utilize a medical device, no
    thank you.