The New York City Bar Association has recommended regulatory changes regarding the training of service animals to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities.
The organization is recommending the revision of a portion of the State Human Rights Law from 2007 that requires service animals to be trained at a “recognized” center, although the state has not designated any. This addition to the law had the effect of eliminating protections for people with hearing, guide or service dogs, although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) the City Human Rights Law continued to uphold their rights.
The City Bar committees on civil rights, disability issues and service animals made their recommendations on March 15, calling on the state to re-define service animals for consistency with the ADA.
The ADA defines a service animal as an animal that is “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” It says that State certification of the animal is not required to be admitted in public places.
Assembly Member Michael Benedetto has sponsored a bill incorporating these changes. The bill, A6816, would amend laws on civil rights, agriculture, markets, public housing and transportation to repeal provisions of the executive law and amend the definition of service animals.
Assembly Members RoAnn M. Destito and Dick Gottfried have co-sponsored the bill, which has advanced to a third reading and has been referred to the Governmental Operations committee.
According to the City Bar report, “Under the ADA throughout New York State, and the City Human Rights Law within New York City, an individual with a disability may not be barred from a restaurant because that individual is accompanied by a guide, hearing, or service dog, regardless of who trained the dog. Indeed, it would be a violation of the ADA or of the City Human Rights Law for the proprietor or an employee of the restaurant to require State certification of the dog.”
The report explained the current language of the law by saying, “Under the current State Human Rights Law, the proprietor or employee of a restaurant, store or other place of public accommodation, or a public employee, might be misled to believe an inquiry as to training or certification is permissible – resulting in a violation of the rights of the person with a disability and a valid complaint under the ADA and/or City Human Rights Law against the restaurant or other entity.”
The report also adds, “Notably, both the Bush and Obama Justice Departments explicitly have rejected calls for formal training and certification requirements for service animals.”
This article was published in the June 2011 issue of Able News.