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Service Animals Must Meet Legal Definition

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Emotional support sounds like something your girlfriend talks about. Guess what? So does the law.

A family in Florida is vowing to continue its fight to get city council to allow it to keep the chickens it has as emotional support for their 3-year-old autistic son. Which leads many to wonder: Chickens? Really? You couldn’t have bought the poor kid a puppy?

Also, doesn’t the law require that people who rely on pets as service animals have special rights?

The Americans With Disabilities Act gives people the right to bring service animals in places where they are not otherwise allowed, but the definition of a service animal are animals that are trained to perform tasks that their handlers cannot do for themselves.

Dogs are covered under the law, and must be allowed into businesses. Specially trained miniature horses may be as well. But the Department of Justice has said that animals that provide comfort or companionship for their owners but that are not trained to perform any specific tasks are not considered service animals under federal law.

For those animals whose presence, but not tasks, provide comfort, the law is still evolving. It takes cases that fight the exclusion of an animal to create an exception but as you can see, that’s a chicken and egg problem for those who already love their legally unprotected pet.

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