Sunday, November 27, 2011

Federal law states only canines now qualify as disabled service animals

Federal law states only canines now qualify as disabled service animals

Federal law states only canines now qualify as disabled service animals

Certification obtained by iguana owner has no backing

Sorry... I couldn't resist this photo for this story.

Staff Writer

(Aug. 6, 2010) Ocean City resident Wayne Short may have his pet iguana certified as a service animal, but a recent change to a federal law means the certification now holds little meaning.

Short caused a stir in the resort this summer by taking Hillary, a 4-foot-long iguana, out on the Boardwalk. In response, the City Council passed a law banning all nondomestic animals from public places.

To get around that, Short obtained certification for the lizard that says she is a service animal trained to help Short with a disability. Federal Americans With Disabilities Act regulations require public establishments to admit service animals, so Short believed he could continue to take Hillary for her daily walks.

Newly hatched Service Iguanas-to-be:)
Young service Iguanas in training- in obedience class.  This is the "long stay":)

But the federal government adopted changes to the ADA law just two weeks ago, with a focus on the definition of a service animal. Under the new law, which will go into effect six months after the July 23 date it was adopted, only dogs can be qualified as service animals for disabled owners.
Prior to July 23, the ADA law defined a service animal “as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.” The new law removes the phrase “or other animal” and adds a requirement that the dog must have training to perform tasks that are directly related to the specific disability of its owner.

“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 law now reads.

Don't feed your service iguana in a restaurant.:)

Toni Eames is the president of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, an advocacy group that represents people who are partnered with service dogs. She said the group worked closely with the government when it was drafting the changes to the ADA law and the leadership is pleased with the new regulations.

“We worked very hard to get these changes,” she said. “A lot of people out there think just because their pet provides comfort to them, that means they can take them anywhere. It’s been a nightmare. We’re glad the law stresses training now.”

Eames is blind and has a seeing-eye dog that helps her with daily tasks. She said many people flaunted the previous law by falsely claiming their pets are service animals and that made it hard for truly disabled people with properly trained animals to be respected.

A leash-trained Service  Iguana?  Seriously?  What does he help you with??
“The iguana situation is the kind of thing we’re so happy this law is now preventing,” Eames said.

The key to the new law is training. Just because a disabled person has a dog, that does not mean the dog is necessarily a qualified service animal. The dog must be trained to do a specific task and that task must be something that directly helps the owner with his or her disability.

A seeing-eye dog that guides a blind person when walking on the street is a service animal, because the trained task is directly related to the disability. A dog that can bark to alert a blind owner to a ringing telephone is not a service animal, according to the new rules, because the blind person can hear the phone.

“Needing an animal and having it actually trained to help you are two different things,” Eames said.

Another important change is that animals that provide emotional support or comfort to their owners are no longer considered service animals under the law.

All this means that Hillary the iguana, regardless of any training or certification, is not a service animal because only dogs now qualify under the law. She likely never qualified in the first place, according to multiple service dog organizations that expressed outrage over Hillary’s socalled “certification.”

According to both the new and old ADA laws, there is no certification required for service animals. While some states do require certification at that level, Maryland is not one of them and there is no federal listing of service animals.

There are organizations which, for a fee, will send a certificate and identification card stating your pet is a service animal, such as the National Service Animal Registry that certified Hillary. These groups are not affiliated with the government and the certificates they provide do not give the animals any rights under the law.

So regardless of Hillary’s ID card, the law now says she is not a service animal and can legally be banned from public places.

There are creatures other than dogs that can be trained to do specific tasks for disabled people. The nonprofit group Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled has been training Capuchin monkeys to assist quadriplegic citizens for 30 years.

“The monkeys can help get something to eat or drink, help put in a DVD or CD, help a person use the computer, turn the lights on and off, scratch an itch or reposition a leg or arm after a muscle spasm. They’re simple everyday tasks we take for granted,” said, Megan Talbert, executive director of the Boston-based organization.

Talbert said the small monkeys, weighing between 6 and 8 pounds as adults, are perfect to train as assistance animals for people who have been paralyzed because they can do those types of small tasks quite easily. It takes Helping Hands two or three years to fully train each monkey and they offer the helpers to disabled people at no cost.

The changes to the ADA law mean the trained monkeys no longer qualify as service animals because they are not dogs. Talbert said that will have little effect on how Helping Hands operates because the organization only trains its monkeys for in-home use. Talbert said they are not suited to go out in public anyway.

“Our policy is that our monkeys are not supposed to be doing tasks in restaurants or grocery stores or anywhere in public. They do best in environments where there is stability, and they are going to be frightened by a lot of activity or people they don’t know around them,” she said.

She said the new law could affect the organization in a few ways. The volunteers take the monkeys on airplanes when they are ready to be placed with an owner, so their travel could be affected. Also, some states where the monkeys are placed require pet owners to register or get permits for exotic pets, so she said it might be harder to get the monkeys recognized since they no longer fall under the definition of a service animal.
The new ADA law does recognize one species of animal other than dogs: miniature horses. The law makes an exception for specially trained miniature guide horses, saying they must be given the same rights as service dogs if it is possible for the establishment to reasonably accommodate the horse.

Representatives from The Guide Horse Foundation in North Carolina that trains and places miniature guide horses did not return e-mails and phone calls seeking comment.

Service Dogs Only (in most cases)

Montana Fund raising-- A Service Dog for RJ, Child with Autism

Dear friends and family

RJ playing with JJ.
I am writing to you on behalf of my six year old son, RJ, who is in need of a service dog for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As a military family, we have struggled with many trials and tribulations over the past 6 years. Since I am disabled and have utilized a service dog we have seen many benefits of him having ...a service dog available. However, sending my service dog to school with my son is not an option; therefore, he needs his own.
We have found out many of the tasks an assistance dog can do with children on the Autism Spectrum which also correlates to his other two disorders. Here are some of the things that a service dog will do for RJ:
* Encourage the child to leave a cherished inanimate world
* Act as a companion, offering unconditional love and friendship
* Provide increased safety, preventing the child from bolting into traffic or other dangerous situations
* Offers more freedom to parents by allowing them to shop and not worry about losing sight of the child or the possibility of the child becoming a flight risk
* Can be trained to track a child who has wondered off – offering added safety and peace-of-mind to the family
* Helps improve behavior, by lending support to the child as they cope in highly stressful situations and with routine changes
* Ease the transition to public places like school or the mall
* Help modify the child's behaviour, redirecting the child's focus at school
* Keep a child at their desk
* Helps improve communication
* Helps parents and families educate others about Autism and Autism service dogs and the benefits a service dog has made in their lives
* And the dog can provide independence, allowing the child to walk down the street without holding a parent's hand
* For a child with autism, having a specially trained service dog allows them the benefit of greater social interaction with their peers, increasing the child's self-esteem

Some of the problems we have with my son, RJ, are that he runs away; bolts even. Not only from stores into parking lots and streets, but from schools. RJ doesn't like to leave the house or play outside for very long if at all. He has trouble sitting still for any period of time in school, for meals, in movies, etc. RJ gets over stimulated with loud noises and crowds. He gets easily angered, has meltdowns, and has spatial awareness issues where he has to be touching, bouncing, spinning, etc. Due to his meltdowns RJ will start harming himself, such as biting and scratching, or even taking his clothes off. RJ also has difficulty communicating his wants and needs, as well as social difficulties with understanding his peers and even adults. RJ has trouble falling asleep and even waking up.
The last few nights I have sent my service dog to bed with RJ, so he can go to sleep and we do not need to spend hours fighting to keep him in bed. It has worked well. Yes, this is wonderful news and he is getting more sleep and the mornings are not a fight either. However, I am not able to utilize my service dog while he's with RJ and so this only works when I have another adult at home to assist me.
I am asking you to please help us obtain this service dog for RJ. We have found a wonderful program called On Q Siberians in South Bend, Indiana, which is an intimate program that tailors the dog to fit the needs of the family and has extremely high standards. On Q has a 6-month old pup, named Rocky, ready to begin training for RJ as soon as we pay the deposit of $1,000 and then we can continue to make payments as training continues to reach the $5,500 balance. I have known about the owner, Angel, for many years and have seen dogs she has placed. Another huge and wonderful benefit with On Q is that she will bring the dog out to us and work with us here in our town, home and school. You can check out On Q at for more information.
The cost of a service dog is quite expensive; however with a little help from everyone the cost can be greatly reduced. We will be able to provide this wonderful little boy with a much needed medical device that can greatly reduce the symptoms and problems he is having not only at home, but also at school that ONLY a Service Dog can do.
Please help us by donating to Randon James Cristner for his service dog. Please help spread the word and share his website

Randon James Cristner
90 W. Madison Ave
Ste E-139
Belgrade, MT 59714-3955


RC Cristner