Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Service Animals in the Public Library: Dos and Don'ts

While you might think you know what a service animal is and what role they might have in your library, you might be surprised by the information below. 

To begin with, to determine if an animal is a service animal, a public entity or a private business may ask two questions: 

1) Is this animal required because of a disability? 
2) What work or task has this animal been trained to perform? 

These inquires may not be made if the need for the service animal is obvious (e.g., the dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person's wheelchair). A public entity or private business may not ask about the nature or extent of an individual's disability. It also may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal, or require the animal to wear an identifying vest.  (Source)

Image of woman on a bench reading with dog on a leash.
Is it a service dog? (Image source: Pixabay)
You may have questions about a patron’s animal and whether or not it is a service animal or an emotional support animal. The University of Michigan’s Animal Legal & Historical Center explains:

An emotional support animal is a companion animal (typically a dog or cat) that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship. The animal provides emotional support and comfort to individuals with psychiatric disabilities and other mental impairments. The animal is not specifically trained to perform tasks for a person who suffers from emotional disabilities. Unlike a service animal, an emotional support animal is not granted access to places of public accommodation. (Source)

Concerning behavior around a service animal, the Kansas State Library reminds libraries that: 

All service dogs can go wherever their masters go. A service dog can be complimented or admired, but it should never be petted or spoken to directly while it is on duty. It is good practice to allow service dogs in training to examine the library, although it is not legally mandated. (Source)

For more information about service animals and libraries, check out the following online resources: 

1. National ADA Center fact sheet about service animals: http://adagreatlakes.com/Publications/Factsheets/National_ADA_Center_Fact_Sheet_5_SERVICE_ANIMALS.pdf 
2. Contact the Great Lakes ADA Center with additional questions: http://adagreatlakes.com/WebForms/ContactUs/ 
3. University of Michigan Animal Law:
4. Kansas State Library ADA Compliance Checklist: 
5. Wisconsin Public Library Development Serving Special Populations—People with Disabilities:

Written by: Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Public Library Development Team