As predicted, the revised ADAAG was released yesterday, on the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). And although the new regulations are full of new scoping requirements and a number of Title II revisions, they also include several Title III revisions, which will affect travelers. In particular, the Department of Justice (DOJ) limited the definition of a service animal to exclude all but traditional service dogs. An exception was also included for properly trained miniature horses; however the new regulations totally disallow exotic animals and those animals that solely provide emotional support.
It’s seen by many as a step forward, as in some cases the ambiguity in the previous regulations left a lot of latitude fore abuse. Additionally, it gives folks in the hospitality industry a black-and-white definition of what does (and what doesn?t) qualify as a service animal. Here’s what the new law has to say.
For starters it defines a service animal as 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. Additionally it excludes other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, except for miniature horses.
The new regulations state that the service animal must work or perform tasks directly related to the handler’s disability. In other words, providing emotional support and comfort is not enough. The animal has to do something such as help with navigation, pull a wheelchair, retrieve objects or even assist someone who is having a seizure. And according to the DOJ, “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.”
Miniature horses are also included in an exception to the definition, if the animal has been trained to assist someone with a disability.
So there you have it. Gone are the service ferrets, snakes and full size horses. Of course this just applies to the ADA, not the FHA or ACAA.
The new regulations are set to take effect six months from publication in the Federal Register.
Other travel related issues contained in the new regulations include the use of Segways as assistive devices and hotels being required to provide information on accessible rooms and blocking them upon reservation. I’ll discuss both of those issues in upcoming blogs.