Companion Dog or Service Dog: New Department of Justice Ruling

I talked with a lady on the bus who told me why she brought her emotional support dog with her. She said the dog helped her stay calm and the dog was her companion. This companion dog was a little dog she carried in a cat carrier-sized container. She sat down next to me and I, being curious, had questions. What dog guide school trained your dog? When was he trained? How old is he?

My dog guide is a 2004 graduate of Guide Dogs for the Blind, Oregon campus. He will be nine years old in July. Telly is my second dog guide and he goes everywhere with me.

The first time we talked was about a month ago. I saw her again about two weeks ago, but this time she exited the bus without talking to me. Since then, I’ve wondered if this same lady continues to use public buses. That is, if she does so following the recent revision of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) rule on use of service dogs in public places.

The law has defined a service animal specifically as trained dogs. It states: “trained dogs are the only species of animals that may qualify as service animals under the ADA (there is a separate provision regarding miniature horses) and emotional support animals are expressly precluded from qualifying as service animals.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently sent out a newly adopted revision to the meaning and use of service animals. According to the DOJ – “new ADA rules define “service animal” as any dog that is individually trained for an intellectual, or mental disability.”

Does this mean that people who live with mental illness and use emotional support or companion dogs can no longer travel on public buses or in cabs?

Will veterans who live with mental illness, who need to use buses or cabs and have an emotional support dog be able to travel freely by using public transportation?

Do bus drivers and cab drivers enforce this rule by refusing rides to people who carry with them an emotional support dog?

It was also cited by the DOJ in the recent ADA ruling on service dogs under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) that – “the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) recent amendments to its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations’ do not affect reasonable accommodation requests under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974 (Section 504).”

The DOJ’s new rules limit the definition of “service animal” in the ADA to Include dogs, and miniature horses under some circumstances. The new rules also define “service animal” to exclude emotional support animals.

What do you think?

Do you like the revisions to the law?

With regard to the recent revisions in the DOJ ruling of what is a service animal under ADA, is the new ruling fair?

Do you want a revision to the ADA law on the new definition and use of a service dog, companion dog, and/or emotional support dog?

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