The Demise of the Service Iguana

August 18, 2011

On March 15 new implementing regulations for Title III of the ADA became effective.  Among the highlights is a new definition for “service animal.” 28 CFR 36.104.  Prior to the revision, “service animal” was left open to interpretation:

 Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal [emphasis added] individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.

This legal ambiguity fostered an environment in which monkeys, snakes, lizards and other unlikely creatures were openly carried in public, many performing no apparent task.   Such “comfort” animals are specifically excluded from the definition of service animal in the new regulation.

 Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability…The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition…

For news sources addressing the new Service Animals regulation, as well as pre-amendment coverage of “service” and “comfort” animals, try the following News search on WestlawNext, which includes “Service with a Snarl: In San Francisco, lizards, rodents, and vicious Chihuahuas have all been declared service animals”, 2009 WLNR 11760274.

           advanced:ti(service comfort /3 animal) & a.d.a. “americans with disabilities act”

 For cases, secondary sources, trial documents and other materials on WestlawNext, choose “All State and Federal” for your jurisdiction, then run the following plain language query:

           ada service animal

 To view the new regulation from proposed to final rule, try the following alternative queries in the Federal Register on WestlawNext:

          advanced:”service animal” & 1190-aa44 1190-aa46  [for cautionary details on Regulation Identifier Numbers      (RIN) searching, see Mike C.’s posts “Anatomy of a RIN” and “More on RINs”]

         advanced:”service animal” & PR(“department of justice”) & da(aft 2007)