Assistance Animals Consulting supports new Alabama law advocating for service animals

Have you seen the new Alabama law prohibiting people from misrepresenting their pets as service animals? Whether this misrepresentation is intentional or not, this law became effective Sunday, Sept. 1, and it’s an important step in bringing more awareness to animal-assisted intervention.

Last year, several states including Arizona passed bills on misrepresenting pets as service animals. We support this awareness and the importance of seeking veterinary guidance to understand human-animal interventions. Alabama is now one of only 25 states to have this law. The fine in Alabama is $100, and 100 hours of community service should be performed for an organization that benefits people with disabilities or is court approved.

People with disabilities who are prescribed a service animal use this assistance animal as their lifeline. Really, this law is about bringing awareness to this group of people and understanding the rights of access and behavior requirements for these animals. A service animal isn’t a pet. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as a dog or miniature horse that has been individually trained to help people with disabilities such as a visual impairment or someone with post-traumatic stress disorder. Unintentional misrepresentations of pets that also serve as emotional support animals usually result from a lack of education and awareness.

Service animals are welcome in any public area or private businesses, which include restaurants, stores and most places of business. It’s also important to know the difference between emotional support animals and service animals. Under the ADA, emotional support animals or animals who provide comfort for an emotional disorder by being around their owner are not classified as service animals. A service dog needs to have specific training that teaches the animal to perform tasks to help its handler in a variety of public situations. A service dog and their handler could be asked to leave a public place if the dog’s behavior is disruptive due to improper training. To help the community understand these differences, businesses and public places can post signs explaining service animals are welcome, and it’s illegal for a person to misrepresent a pet as a service animal.

As veterinarians, at Assistance Animals Consulting, our goal is to support organizations interacting with individuals and animals participating in human-animal health care interventions. We focus on optimizing the human-animal bond for positive human health and animal health outcomes. Which means at times, advocating for the appropriate use of laws to help restrict improperly trained service dogs or pets from negatively engaging with legitimate service dogs.

Ultimately, this law was created to support individuals with disabilities who have a critical need for service animals. Assistance Animals Consulting helps educate people about the types of assistance animals and their perspective rights of access, explaining where these animals are permitted. We have a workforce development program specifically for service dogs so businesses can better support their customers with disabilities who utilize service dogs. Our mission is to provide resources for education, behavioral understanding, and guidance regarding assistance animals.

Learn more on the types of assistance animals here, and read more about our services below.

  1. We provide education to pet owners to help reduce service dog fraud.

  2. We provide education to business organizations and associates to help them become compliant to the regulations of the ADA as it relates to service animals.

  3. We provide education to the public at large to bring awareness to the ADA as it relates to service animals.

  4. We have a workforce development program specific to service dogs supporting customers with disabilities to help reduce unintentional discrimination.

At Assistance Animals Consulting, we’re here to support you and your organization. It’s important to advocate for those participating in human-animal interventions. It is equally important for the public to be educated on service dog etiquette for their own health and safety and that of the service animal and handler. We help guide businesses and organizations needing to elevate their customer experience for those with and without service animals. Whether it’s creating training to support customers with service dogs or learning the appropriate behavior guidelines for service dogs, our veterinarians have the expertise and training you need to be prepared. We collaborate, evaluate, educate and advocate for successful animal-assisted interventions that strengthen the human-animal connection. Contact us today to learn how we can support you.

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