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What is a service animal?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended defines a service animal as any dog (and sometimes miniature horse, although special rules apply) that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The behavior must be more than things dogs do naturally. Examples include picking up and retrieving items, opening doors, assisting their human partner to stand or walk steadily, alerting others that their human partner needs emergency assistance and even entering a room ahead of their partner and signaling a “safe signal” to alleviate a person’s anxiety or PTSD symptoms. Some service dogs can even signal to their human partner that their blood sugar needs attention or that the human is going to have a seizure. Contrary to common belief, there is no government sanctioned or “official” certification or license for service animals. Service animals may be awarded certificates of completion by a trainer or training organization, but such certifications are neither required to attain legal protections, nor dispositive that an animal qualifies as a service animal.
What is an emotional support animal (ESA) or a therapy animal?
Emotional support animals and therapy animals may play an important role in the health of an individual. However, neither is accorded the same legal protections as a service animal. This is an important distinction. The ADA's definition of service animal explicitly states that an animal's provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship does not constitute "work or tasks" that will make the animal a "service animal" under the ADA. If, however, the animal is trained to prevent or reduce an individual's impulsive or destructive behavior, it will be deemed to be a service animal. Therapy animals are trained to visit health care facilities, nursing homes, and schools to visit with individuals or groups. They are not trained to perform specific tasks for a person with a disability. Therefore, they are not entitled to legal protection.
How do I tell if a dog is a service animal? What questions are permissible to ask?
Although service animals aren’t required by the ADA to wears vests, collars, backpacks or other identifying features, Salus University students who have been approved to have a service animal on campus have been instructed to have their dog badged in some fashion for ease of identification. This is because in a health care delivery setting, it’s important that students, staff, and faculty can ascertain a dog’s identity quickly.
Salus University personnel are permitted, when appropriate, to ask only two questions to determine if an animal qualifies as a service animal:
(1) whether the animal is required because of a disability; and
(2) what work or task the animal has been trained to perform.
Requesting a demonstration of that work or task is not permitted. Even these two inquires, however, may be inappropriate when it is obvious that the animal is trained to work for a person with a disability (e.g., when the dog is guiding a person who is blind or pulling a person’s wheelchair).
Note: Pennsylvania state law may confer additional rights.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) is the State’s anti-discrimination law. The PHRA uses some terms for animals that assist people with disabilities that are not mentioned in the ADA. This has the potential to lead to uncertainty about whether an animal is to be afforded legal protection. If a member of the public seeks to enter a Salus clinical facility and asserts a right under the PHRA, please treat the individual with respect and ask them to wait in the lobby area. Then contact OAS for further instructions.
Service dogs in training may be accompanied by individuals with or without disabilities. Such animals may or may not be wearing badges or other devices making their role clear. The ADA does not require public accommodations like Salus to allow persons who do not have disabilities to take service animals-in-training into their buildings or facilities. The PHRA, however, expressly protects the rights of handlers or trainers of service animals to take the animals into public accommodations, such as Salus University facilities.
Must a service animal be on a leash at all times?
A service animal must be under the control of its handler. This typically requires that it be on a leash, harness, or another tether. However, if the handler cannot use a leash, harness, or tether due to his disability or because doing so would interfere with the animal’s ability to perform his work or tasks, then the handler must exercise control through other means (such as voice control or signals).
Who may bring a service animal into a Salus University clinical facility?
University clinical facilities are considered public accommodations under the law. Therefore, a member of the public has the right to be accompanied by their service animal in those facilities. Before a student may be accompanied by a service dog at a Salus University clinical facility they must first obtain the approval of the Office for Academic Success (OAS) and the Safety and Security Office. Employees must obtain approval from Human Resources.
When may a service animal be denied entry to a Salus University clinical facility?
The University may exclude a service animal from a Salus University clinical facility under if the student has failed to receive prior approval from the University or if the dog does not display the appropriate municipal license and vaccination tags. Cleanliness of the service dog is also mandatory. A dog that is dirty or displaying signs of illness or injury should be denied entry.
When can a service animal be required to leave a Salus University clinical facility?
Salus University may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from a Salus University clinical facility if the animal displays uncontrolled or inappropriate behavior. Before the University will ask an individual to remove the service animal, they will be given the opportunity to take effective action to control and/or correct the animal’s behavior. Refusal to take effective action or if in the University’s opinion the actions taken are do not adequately correct or control the animal’s behavior, the individual will be asked to remove the service animal from the facility.
Are there limits to where a service animal may go at a Salus University clinical facility?
Students with disabilities may be accompanied by their service animals at a Salus University clinical facility in all places that the public or participants in services, programs or activities are allowed to go. This includes clinical suites, consulting rooms, and similar spaces related to clinical education and service delivery.
The University may prohibit the use of a service dog in certain locations due to health or safety restrictions, such as where a service dog may be in danger, or where the dog’s presence may compromise the integrity of certain research. Restricted locations include, but are not limited to, food preparation areas, certain research laboratories, mechanical rooms/custodial closets, classrooms with demonstration/research animals, areas where protective clothing is necessary and other areas where the dog’s presence may, in the University’s opinion, constitute a danger.
What about the rights of others?
Whenever possible, OAS will advise a Salus University clinical facility if a service dog will be accompanying a student. If member of the faculty, staff, or another student scheduled to be at a Salus University clinical facility at the same time as a student with a service animal has a covered disability under the ADA that makes contact with or being in the presence of a dog inadvisable, a request for assistance should be made to OAS. If a Salus University employee has a covered disability under the ADA that includes a condition affected by the presence of a dog, the employee should also notify Human Resources of their concerns.
What about the rights and health of patients?
When it is known that a student with a service animal will be providing clinical services to members of the public, it is appropriate for a Salus University clinical facility staff to enact procedures designed to minimize possible conflicts. For example, at times when a service dog is present, it is advisable to screen patients for dog allergies and other sensitivities before assigning them to a specific student clinician. If a patient objects to the presence of a service dog prior to or at the outset of patient care, the student clinician should be given the option of crating the animal in another location for the duration of the clinical experience. Alternatively, the patient should be seen by a different student clinician and the student with the service animal should be provided with assignment to a different patient.
All reasonable measures should be taken to ensure that neither a student’s disability nor their use of an approved service animal should be allowed to diminish their clinical education opportunities.
Who is responsible of a student’s service dog while the student is at a Salus clinical facility?
Individuals with disabilities are responsible for the control of their service animals at all times and must comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including leash laws. A service animal shall be restrained with a harness, leash, or other tether, unless an individual’s disability precludes the use of a restraint or if the restraint would interfere with the service animal's safe, effective performance of work or tasks. If a service animal is not tethered, it must be otherwise under the individual’s control, whether by voice control, signals, or other effective means.
A student with a service animal may provide an appropriate crate or similar enclosure for the temporary housing of the service animal while at a Salus clinical facility. Crated service animals are considered “off duty” and may be placed in a safe location at the discretion of a Salus University clinical facility staff. The safe location need not provide immediate access to the animal by the student, but should provide reasonable access. A third party (student, faculty, staff) may volunteer to take temporary responsibility for a student’s service animal for short periods of time, for example while the student with a disability provides clinical care, but no student may be required to take responsibility or provide care for a service animal belonging to another.
A student with a service animal is responsible for ensuring that the animal is afforded appropriate access to fresh water and an opportunity to eliminate bodily waste products in a timely manner and in areas designated by the university. The student is responsible for the immediate clean-up and proper disposal of all animal waste.
How should I behave towards a person with a disability and their service dog?
It is generally not a safe practice to approach any dog without seeking the owner’s permission. Service dogs, when wearing their vest, harness, or other identifying equipment and badging, are working animals on duty. These dogs have a job to do that often requires careful attention to the environment and its handler’s commands. Therefore, the most appropriate response to the presence of a service animal is to not call attention to it. Some service dog handlers welcome conversation about their dog, while others do not. Some may find inquiries about the animal to be distracting, rude, or even a sign of disability discrimination. It is best to interact with the individual without focusing on their service animal. The best policy is to not pay undue attention to a working service animal or engage its handler with questions regarding breed, training, name, etc., unless the handler introduces the topic or openly welcomes questions or conversation about their animal. If you have a specific question about how to interact with the individual or if they seem to be having difficulty with their service animal, simply ask politely and with good cheer if you can be of assistance. Then accept the response, even if you are rebuffed, with the same good cheer.
Multiple Service Animals
Multiple service animals: Generally, service animals can be expected to be well behaved, even in the presence of other animals, including other service dogs. However, on occasion, conflicts can arise. If this occurs, the university’s primary concern is for the safety of the public, students, staff, and faculty. Whenever possible, a patient’s use of a service dog should be given priority over a student’s use of a service dog, as long as safety can be maintained. Generally, simply separating the dogs will be sufficient to end the interaction. If any dog, service animal or otherwise, becomes aggressive to the point of representing a danger to others, call the security officer on duty as soon as possible.
How do we balance a student’s Need for a Service Animal and the Requirements of Clinical Education?
While a student may be approved to have a service animal at a Salus clinical facility, the student remains responsible for mastering the knowledge and clinical skills required of their program of study. If the student’s use of a service animal affects their academic performance, it is the student’s responsibility to either change their use of the service dog, attend to clinical duties without the dog, or to contact OAS to problem solve. If a patient asks a student with a service dog about the animal, it is the student’s responsibility to provide an appropriate and adequate response, just as they would in professional practice. It is foreseeable that the presence of a service animal may affect clinician/patient interactions and communications. The student remains responsible for those elements of the clinician/patient relationship that are considered part of the course and program requirements. As such, students are encouraged to consider how they will respond if questioned or challenged by a patient due to the presence of the service animal.