New Law Allows Service Animals to Train and Socialize in Places of Public Accommodation
A new Michigan law allows animal trainers the ability to socialize and train service animals in places of public accommodation.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a place of public accommodation includes a wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and daycare centers.
House Bill 4265, signed into law recently by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, requires a public accommodation to modify its policies, practices, and procedures to allow a service animal who is accompanied by a trainer or animal raiser into the place of public accommodation to train or socialize.
Why is the legislation necessary?
Service dogs provide a wide range of assistance to help people with disabilities, and their owners rely on that assistance to maintain mobility and a higher quality of life. However, the dogs must be trained, which entails basic training and socialization by animal raisers before the custom training begins.
To do the training animal raisers and trainers must take the dogs into the types of businesses that the owner might frequent. However, language giving trainers access to places of public accommodations was inadvertently removed when that section of the law was amended several years ago. This has confused shop and restaurant owners as to which dogs have lawful standing to be admitted and which dogs must be denied access under health laws.
A trainer refers to an individual employed by a service animal agency that is accredited by Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation.
An animal raiser is an individual who raises and socializes a young animal that may later be trained by a service animal agency accredited by Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation.
The law does not apply to emotional support animals.
Provisions for the law allow for the following:
- Allows staff of a public accommodation to ask what work or task the service animal is being trained or socialized to perform;
- Prohibits a public accommodation from isolating a handler when accompanied by the service animal or treating the handler less favorably than other patrons or charging a fee or surcharge not charged to others;
- Requires a public accommodation to allow the service animal to accompany the handler in appropriate areas where members of the public, customers, and others are allowed to go;
- Prohibits a public accommodation from asking the service animal to be removed from the premises due to allergies or fear;
- Requires a service animal to be under the control of the handler and, with some exceptions, to have a harness, leash, or another tether;
- Allows a public accommodation to ask for the service animal to be removed if it is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it; and
- Allows handlers to be charged for damages caused by the service animal.
Help is available