March 11, 2020
Laura L. Rubenstein
What should you do when your new employee brings his 100-pound “emotional support” dog to work on his first day? Oh, and this without any mention during the interview that he’d have an untrained animal accompanying him all day on the shop floor.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes a clear distinction between a service animal and an emotional support, therapy, comfort or companion animal. Generally speaking, the ADA defines “service animal” as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. On the other hand, “comfort animals” are pets that provide comfort just by being with a person. If a comfort animal has not been trained to perform a specific job or task they will not qualify as service animal under the ADA.
The ADA also makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and to take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, that is not considered a service animal under the ADA.
If your work environment has furry friends visiting that are not ADA-approved, let me help you through the process of addressing what documentation and accommodations are needed.
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