The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a vital piece of legislation enacted to help support and advance those living in America with a disabling physical or mental condition. In general, the ADA works to require employers to not only treat those with a disability equally to those without, but also mandates employers to make certain accommodations to assist those with disabilities in the workplace. Moreover, the ADA applies to most public facilities, and even contains mandates relating to housing.
One important issue covered by the ADA involves the use of service animals by those who suffer from certain physical or psychiatric conditions. Under Title II and Title III of the ADA, animals meeting the definition of a “service animal” are permitted to be used in schools, stores, workplaces, public areas, and housing units. However, the term “service animal” is specifically drafted to apply only to those animals who have been specifically trained to respond to the effects of the owner’s unique disability.
For those who have been prescribed an emotional or psychiatric support animal, this could present an issue under the ADA’s strict definition of a covered service animal, particularly with regard to housing or employment. If you are facing unfair treatment or refusal by your landlord or employer to allow your support animal access to the premises, we encourage you to contact us today.
Distinguishing Between Psychiatric and Emotional Support Animals
The ADA draws a distinction between psychiatric and emotional support animals. A psychiatric support animal is specifically trained to help those enduring a particular mental health condition. Examples of psychiatric support animals include those trained to help post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients, individuals prone to self-mutilation, or helping protect those with a dissociative disorder from engaging in dangerous behavior. These psychiatric support animals are usually considered within the purview of the ADA, and businesses or employers are prohibited from discriminating against patrons or employees in need of this type of support.
By contrast, emotional support animals are generally not considered covered by the ADA, and a shopkeeper or workplace supervisor may be within his or her rights to deny access to the facility. The reason for this stems directly from the definition of service animal, which is limited to those animals possessing skill and training directly tied to the handler’s disability.
An emotional support animal, which is often used to treat anxiety, depression, loneliness or therapeutic benefits, is generally not considered specifically trained to treat the precise side effects of these conditions – and the handler may face unfair and damaging discrimination by those unwilling to accept the animal. However, certain exceptions may apply to help mitigate the situation, and our disability attorneys may be able to help. For instance, emotional support animals are often permitted on commercial airlines, and the Fair Housing Act mandates the acceptance of emotional support animals in units that otherwise do not allow pets.
If you are near Cincinnati and have questions about your rights under the ADA, you should discuss your situation with a well-versed disability discrimination lawyer.