Horses and monkeys out, autism assistance dogs in?

The New York Times featured an article about service animals in their Sunday Magazine on January 4. After the article was published, the writer (Rebecca Skloot) received documents that were leaked from the Department of Justice (DOJ). The leaked documents outlined some changes the DOJ is proposing to redefine service animals — all part of a major overhaul of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Skloot posted the leaked documents on her Culture Dish blog — the documents 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, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, cannot be service animals.

While these documents limit the sort of animal a person with a disability can use for assistance (only dogs), they expand the sort of disability that would qualify.

The Justice Department’s rulings have been sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final approval. Word has it, though, that the controversial language excluding all animals but dogs was removed before the document went to the OMB. Guess we’ll all just have to stay tuned for the final verdict.


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  1. Denise Rozell Says:

    On January 22, 2009, the new Obama Administration withdrew quite a number of draft regulations developed by the previous Administration in the waning days of their term including what would have been the final ADA regs on Titles II (state and local government) and III (public accomodations) that you reference here. I am sure that we will be seeing another round of the Title II and Title III regs in the furture, including regs on service animals, but they may look completly different than the draft reviewed by OMB. We will just have to wait and see…

  2. Beth Finke, blog moderator Says:

    Thanks for commenting to our blog – you can help us by checking out our Act for Autism Web site at – you’ll see info there about the Living With Autism Study and community forums – and please continue sharing our blog posts with your colleagues. We really do want to get word out there that autism is treatable.