Many businesses are now being confronted by customers who wish to bring dogs with them into the establishment. It used to be that only guide dogs were allowed, but, in recent years, that has expanded to include the concept of “service dogs.” While, certainly, there are many good service dogs that provide tangible benefits to their owners, some inscrutable types have taken advantage of this conceptual expansion to use it as an opportunity to bring their pets with them wherever they go. Companies selling service dog certification packages, often with no verification or background check, have even cropped up.
For example, Ivana Trump, former wife of the Republican presidential candidate, is reputed to have claimed that her miniature Yorkie is an emotional support therapy dog, and she allegedly brought it with her to a high-end Manhattan eatery. When questioned, she allegedly presented a certification card, which purported to “prove” that the canine was a service animal.
Colorado is currently contemplating litigation that would criminalize such pet owner activity, with fines up to $5,000. And while the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does mandate the allowance of service dogs, there is a popular misconception that emotional support animals are similarly condoned. The ADA is silent on that.
As a business owner, it is important to decide what stance the business should take with regard to such animals, as well as customers who may become insistent.