Autism assistance animals allowed, as long as they’re dogs

Revisions made to the Department of Justice’s ADA regulations last July should help assure parents that children with autism can bring their assistance animals to school with them this year … as long as that animal is a dog, that is.

Department of Justice regulations (implementing Title III of the ADA) used to define a service animal as:

any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to provide assistance for the benefit of an individual with a disability.

The revisions define a service animal as:

any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.

Notice the specific word dog in that sentence. Aside from one provision for miniature horses, other species of animals (whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained) are no longer deemed service animals. That means monkeys, parrots, rodents, and reptiles, among others, will no longer be permitted to accompany individuals with disabilities into places of public accommodation.

These regulations will take effect six months after the date they are published in the Federal Register, and as far as I can tell, the new revisions do not limit the age of the person using the service animal. So as long as autism is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and as long as the child with autism is with a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the child’s benefit,well, then it looks like the dog will be allowed to go with that child to school.


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  1. Elizabeth Winchell Says:

    The new law doesn’t specify a right for paralyzed people to keep their monkeys with them when they have to evacuate from home in an emergency. What’s a person supposed to do if his or her house is burning down–leave behind a $40,000 service monkey to die? The new law is an embarrassment, and needs some fixing, so please sign the petition to reexamine the law.

  2. Beth Finke Says:

    Yes, many people who have disabilities do use monkeys to help them with tasks. I don’t know how the decision was made to limit the definition of service animals to dogs (or in some cases, miniature horses) — my guess is that perhaps the powers that be thought it wouldn’t be necessary to bring a service monkey out in public, most of the work they do for the person with a disability happens in the home? People with disabilities can still use service monkeys at home, but service monkeys are not allowed in public places. I’m not sure why that is.

  3. Joy Says:

    Don’t a lot of people use monkeys for assistance?

  4. Dennis Says:

    Rats. Guess I’ll have to leave my autism snake at home.

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