Service Animal Guidelines
The Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) and its amendments (2010) explicitly prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities who use service animals because of a disability.
Only dogs (and in some cases, miniature horses**) can be considered service animals. It is the training that distinguishes a service animal from another animal. Service animals are ‘working’ animals, not pets or emotional support animals. Service animals are generally permitted to accompany owners/handlers with disabilities in all areas of City owned and operated members of the public are allowed to go.
A service animal must be housebroken and must be kept under control by a harness, leash, or other tether, unless the person is unable to hold those, or such use would interfere with the service animal’s performance of work or other tasks. In such instances, the service animal must be kept under control by voice, signals, or other effective means.
Requirements of Service Animals and Responsibilities of Their Handlers/Owners
Service animals must be specifically trained to perform a task or function for their handler/owner, a person with a disability. However, service animals do not have to wear any special identification and the owner/handler does not have to carry any certification proving the animal is a service animal.
If the need for the animal is not apparent, a city employee may ask the handler/owner if the animal is required because of a disability and what task or service the animal has been trained to perform. They may not ask about the nature of or details about the disability. If the handler/owner is not able to verify that the animal is indeed a service animal, the animal and handler/owner may be asked to leave.
Service animal handlers/owners who are accompanied by assistance animals must comply with all applicable City rules regarding noise, safety, disruption, and cleanliness. Handlers/owners are also responsible for the cost, care, and supervision of their assistance animals, including:
- Compliance with any laws pertaining to animal licensing, vaccination, and owner/handler identification;
- Keeping the animal under control and taking effective action when it is out of control; and
- Feeding and walking the animal, and appropriately disposing of its waste.
The City will not require any surcharges or fees for assistance animals. However, a person with a disability may be charged for damage caused by an assistance animal to the same extent that the City would normally charge a person for damage they cause.
Exceptions and Exclusions
The City may impose some restrictions on, and may even exclude, a service animal if:
- The animal is out of control and effective action is not taken by the handler/owner to control the assistance animal;
- If the animal is not housebroken; or
- The animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be mitigated by reasonable modifications of policies, practices, procedures or the provision of auxiliary aids or services
In considering whether an assistance animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, the City will make an individualized assessment based on reasonable judgment, current medical knowledge, or the best objective evidence to determine:
- The nature, duration and severity of the risk;
- The probability that the potential injury will actually occur; and
- Whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, procedures or the provision of auxiliary aids or service will mitigate the risk.
In the rare event that restriction or removal of an service animal is determined to be necessary, the person with a disability will still be given the opportunity to participate in the service, program, or activity without having the animal present. Other options may be presented as well in an attempt to meet the person’s accessibility needs.
Service Animals in Training
Service Animals in training are not protected under the ADA or Washington State laws and are therefore not allowed in any space that does not allow pets.
Difference between Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals (sometimes called companion or comfort animals) provide disability-related emotional support. Emotional support animals are not specifically protected under the ADA, therefore, they do not have to be allowed into public spaces. Emotional support animals are not allowed in any City of Vancouver space that does not allow pets.
Managing Conflicting Needs for Access
Another person’s allergies or fear of animals is not, in and of itself, a valid reason for denying access or refusing service to people with service animals. There oftentimes are creative solutions that allow both people with disabilities who have dogs and people with disabilities who cannot be near dogs to co-exist in the same building or even at the same function.
**If you are interested in bringing a miniature horse as your service animal to a City of Vancouver function, you will need to first contact the ADA Coordinator to make your request for accommodation. Requests made for the use of miniature horses as service animals will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.