Monkey Business

Apparently it’s emotional support animal week here at Barrier Free Travels, as now we have a service monkey in the news.

Debby Rose is suing the Springfield-Greene County Health Department because she alleges they lacked the authority to determine if her emotional support monkey qualifies as a service animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Apparently Ms. Rose is prone to panic attacks when out in public, and somehow her 10-year old old bonnet macaque helps alleviate them. I assume that local merchants approached the health department, asking for some sort of clarification about the rules regarding emotional support animals. To that end, the health department sent out a letter to local restaurants and grocery stores advising them that Ms. Rose’s monkey did not qualify as a service animal, and they were not required to accommodate it/her.

She’s also suing Cox Health for prohibiting her from taking the monkey to nursing classes and Wal-Mart for denying her and Richard access to the store.

Yes, I said nursing classes.

Apparently this isn’t Ms. Rose’s first foray into the legal arena, as she filed a similar complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in 2006. They ruled in favor of the health department.

Which brings us back to the issue of emotional support animals. Are they covered under the ADA (outside of fair housing issues)? The DOJ has been very adamant about their position on this matter, even to the point of clarifying it in the recently released NPRM.

From the June 17, 2008 issue of the Federal Register:

The Department is proposing new regulatory text in ? 35.104 to formalize its position on emotional support or comfort animals, which is that ”[a]nimals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or promote emotional wellbeing are not service animals.”

So, in a word, no.

Now don’t get me wrong, a monkey can be considered a service animal, if perhaps it performs a specific task, like picking up objects or opening doors; however “calming a person down” clearly falls under the umbrella of emotional support, wellbeing and comfort.

And before I’m inundated with e-mails claiming that I’m an animal hater; take a gander at my bio photo and notice that I’m holding an animal myself.

But I do really hate to see cases like this emerge, as they tend to damage the credibility of those folks who have legitimate service animals.

I’d be willing to place money on which way this case will go. The same way it went in 2006!