A Business Owners’ Guide to Service & Companion Animals

A Business Owners’ Guide to Service & Companion Animals

SCOTT: My name is Scott Bloom and I’m the Traumatic Brain Injury Program Coordinator at the Washington Department of Veteran Affairs. It is important for anyone interacting with service dogs to understand that they’re not just a pet, it’s not just a in-home animal. That it’s something that the owners have a right to to possess and to bring with them wherever they go, and that they depend on for day-to-day activities. SHANDA: My name is Shanda Taylor-Boyd, and this is Timber. SHERI: I’m Sheri Richardson, and my seeing eye dog is Impala. ANDRÉ: My name is André Perez, and this is Smoke. This is my buddy, he helps me out with everything. For the last, eight or nine years, I’ve been dealing with PTSD in TBI and all that stuff. He provides that barrier of security for me, and he allows me to have a better quality of life. SHERI: Having a dog really helps me to be a more independent person. I know I can travel safely where I want to go and when I want to go. SHANDA: In 2008, I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. If I’m here and I’m crying, he [Timber] will just come right up to me, and just start like start licking me and then, like he almost knocked me over to like say ‘snap out of it, I’m here.’ It is the major comfort just to know that he’s there, he’s got my back. I think hands down, a service dog gives me as a veteran more than I could ever give him. MIRANDA: Under Washington State law, any animal that has been trained to do work or perform tasks for the individual with a disability is considered a service animal. So, any trained animal. [MUSIC] Because you have a disability, doesn’t grant you the right to call your dog a service dog. It’s the training that the dog goes through that grants him the right. SHERI: Impala is trained to guide me safely, she does that by using my commands. Mostly left, right and forward, and then she also is trained to do what’s called intelligent disobedience, which means if I ask her to something that is not safe, she is supposed to refuse to do it. WAYNE: My name is Wayne Terry, and this is Monty, my hearing dog. Monty is trained to alert me to certain sounds. Say for an example, a smoke alarm. I don’t hear a smoke alarm unless it’s right about there. Like, when I go to bed at night I take out my aid. DANA: It works as a medical assistive device, it is not a pet. NARRATOR: Service animal owners have a right to bring their animals just about everywhere. That means they have a right to bring them into government buildings, and places of public accommodation, like stores, restaurants, and theaters and hotels. They also have a right to ask for a reasonable accommodation to use their service animals in their homes, and bring them to work, despite any existing no pet policies. For places of public accommodation, here are some rules to follow when interacting with the person with a disability and his or her service animal. SARAH: There are two questions that places of public accommodation can ask the owner of a service animal. 1. Is this animal required because of a disability? and 2. What service or task is this animal trained to do? On the other hand, one cannot ask What is your disability? That information is confidential. Similarly, they can’t ask if you have proof or documentation that they’re [service animal] licensed as a service animal. SCOTT: Service animals do not require a tag, a vest, or any documentation. There’s a lot of fake, especially internet, service providers that distribute vests and actually have no training whatsoever for the dogs. That gives service and with a bad rap. GABI: My name is Gabi Shephard, I own Olympic Cards and Comics in Lacey, Washington. I think some people think that people are faking or it’s too easy to get a service animal or whatever that is, but I don’t put it in that view. I mean, someone who needs a service animal needs a service animal and that just needs to be respected. NARRATOR: If a service animal is misbehaving in your business, for example: barking, jumping on customers or making a mess, you may deny access to the service animal, but you must still allow the animal’s owner to patronize your business. SCOTT: When you come in contact with a service animal and their owner, it’s important to follow these rules both for safety and out of respect for the person with a disability. Speak to the person not the animal. Do not feed the animal. Do not pet the animal. Do not be offended if the owner does not wish to chat about the service animal. Do not touch the service animal without asking for, and receiving permission. NARRATOR: Unlike service animals, companion animals do not need specialized training and the rules are a little bit different. SARAH: Well, as the name implies ‘companion animals’ provide support by simply being a companion. They can do things like alleviate loneliness, provide relief for people with mental or psychiatric disabilities. Companion animals are typically dogs and cats, but they can include many other animals, for example, snakes, lizards, small rodents. NARRATOR: Like service animals, companion animal owners have a right to request reasonable accommodations to keep companion animals in their homes or bring them to work. However, government buildings, and places of public accommodation do not have to allow companion animals. SARAH: It’s important to keep in mind that companion animals provide real support for people with different disabilities and it’s helpful for them to be able to bring their companion animal in order to patronize different businesses. GABI: We allow all animals in our store because I find that people feel more of a sense of community and family when they’re here with the people they consider part of their group. SARAH: Businesses may want to accommodate companion animals because it allows customers to feel more comfortable and have the support that they need from their companion animal while patronizing the business. And they may want to come back. NARRATOR: Because several federal, state, and local laws address the rights of animal owners, and there are some fact-specific exceptions within those laws, there are some specific cases where these rules may be different. Rules for service and companion animals may be more restrictive in certain situations. For example, when an animal is misbehaving or is exhibiting threatening behavior. Rules may also be more restrictive in specific places like stores that sell food or in hospitals. Please check out the resources at the end of this video more information that can help you respond to service and companion animals in your particular business. SARAH: Service animals make it possible for people with disabilities to live more independently, with dignity, and allow them to really access a lot more of the community. SHERI: My life without Impala would just be so much more boring because I wouldn’t leave home as much, I wouldn’t go and physically go places as much. ANDRÉ: If I didn’t have Smoke in my life, this house would probably be the extent of my social interactions, but he allows me to actually, you know, be more human I guess. GABI: Service animals are as much a part of their handlers as someone in a wheelchair or crutches and things like that. It’s kinda our responsibility as a business owner to make sure everybody can feel welcome and everybody can get their needs met. I mean ultimately, that’s what you want, you want everyone to feel safe and secure wherever they are.

Comments (7)

  1. This is so important for people to understand.  Good video

  2. For more info see Handbook for Service Dogs:  the Truths & Myths about working dogs, available at, or Amazon

  3. Awesome video…..very informative 👍🏼

  4. I wonder what happens when the service dog is sick, or dies.

  5. I love how this video goes over the respect you need to give people and their service animals. Last Saturday someone asked me why I had dogs in a store and what my disability was. I didn't answer because I really can't talk to anyone when they confront me. If more people knew these laws about service animals then life with a service animal would be a lot easier for handlers. Thx for the vid! 🙂

  6. Physciatric service animals are NOT ESA's and have the same access rights as any other animal. However if the animal only is there for support then that is not a task and is considered an ESA. If a animal is trained to perform tasks such as DPT or reminding a disabled handler to take meds then those are considered tasks and the animal is considered a service animal. I have a mental disability that prevents me from going into public without feeling like I'm going to be attacked. My service dog helps me forget that anxiety and when it starts bothering me she performs DPT which is considered a task.

    Edit: My dog also helps me with my mobility issues. So she pulls me when I have trouble walking and if I sit down or fall down she helps me back up again.

  7. People still get pissed off at you when you tell them to please don’t pet their service dog! It happens to me and my partner a lot. It is quite scary, especially if you are alone.

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