The Equal Rights Center based in Washington, D.C. has recently published a short and helpful booklet for users of service animals and other types of assistive animals. It is a “users” guide for persons seeking accommodations for their service animals, including advocacy tips and resources for reporting violations. The hospitality industry is often at the forefront of accommodating guests, and this publication is a useful and simple tool to better understand how and when to accommodate guests.
One important point for the hospitality industry is that under the ADA, public places, such as hotels, must provide reasonable modifications for service animals. Under federal law a service animal is a dog. There are other types of assistive animals that provide emotional and therapeutic support, but only dogs are considered service animals.
In addition to the provisions about service animals, the Justice Department’s ADA regulations have a separate provision about miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Miniature horses generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds. Hotels would be wise to review their service animal policies and make modifications where necessary to permit miniature horses where reasonable. The federal regulations set out four assessment factors to assist entities, like hotels, in determining whether miniature horses can be accommodated in their facility. The assessment factors are (1) whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (2) whether the miniature horse is under the owner’s control; (3) whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight; and (4) whether the miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.
[*Nelson Migdal serves as a Commissioner on the Montgomery County Commission of Persons with Disabilities.]