Author Patricia Marx decided to brazen her way through New York restaurants, museums, high-end fashion shops, and other institutions with five “un-cuddly, non-nurturing animals” such as a turtle, snake, and turkey, and some therapist paperwork that was easy enough to procure. [New Yorker] Aside from writing hilariously, she’s well informed about the Americans with Disabilities Act interplay:
Why didn’t anybody do the sensible thing, and tell me and my turtle to get lost? The Americans with Disabilities Act allows you to ask someone with a service animal only two questions: Is the animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the animal been trained to perform? Specific questions about a person’s disability are off limits, and, as I mentioned, people are baffled by the distinction between service animals and emotional-support animals.
Len Kain, the editor-in-chief of dogfriendly.com, a Web site that features pet-travel tips, said, “The law is fuzzy. If you ask one too many questions, you’re in legal trouble for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and could face fines of up to a hundred thousand dollars. But, if you ask one too few questions, you’re probably not in trouble, and at worst will be given a slap on the wrist.”
We’ve been tracking the issue of real and imagined service animals for a long time.
P.S. As I should have noted, changes in federal rules a few years back attempted to lay out a bright-line rule that animals other than individually trained dogs and some miniature horses do not enjoy service animal status under the ADA. Unless merchants have reason to fear separate liability under differing state or municipal versions of discrimination law, they should therefore be on firm ground in rejecting alpacas, reptiles, or turkeys — which of course assumes they are up on the status of the federal regs. More: Scott Greenfield.