Federal Law Trumps Local Ordinances for Service Animals
A service dog in New Mexico, that also happens to be a pit bull mix, can continue helping his owner, thanks to federal law. Local officials finally accepted that their town ordinance banning the breed had to take second place to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Local History
Tjeras is a tiny town in New Mexico, of not even a thousand people. In a village that size, everyone is a neighbor. When a little girl was mauled by a pit bull back in 1984, the town was horrified.
They didn’t hesitate to take action. The local council passed a law banning the offending dog breed, the American pit bull terrier. According to the ordinance, if owners don’t comply, the dog can be euthanized. The state Court of Appeals upheld the law in 1988.
What To Do About Brewski
Then in 2015, along comes Brewski, a certified service dog. He is part Labrador and also American bull dog, a breed closely related to pit bulls and often grouped with them.
Connor Flanagan, 11 years old, and his mother Katrina welcomed Brewski. The boy suffers from apraxia, a motor and neurological disorder makes it hard for him to make certain types of movements and speak clearly. Brewski was trained to help the boy with everyday tasks.
In keeping with local law, officials told the Flanagans that they had to get rid of the pooch. If not, Brewski could be removed by law enforcement and euthanized.
Federal Law Tops Local Ordinances
The discussion in town was heated and it took months. Finally a decision was reached that saved Brewski and let Connor keep him. The Americans with Disabilities Act carried the legal weight to prevail over local law.
The specific wording of the law says, “Municipalities that prohibit specific breeds of dogs must make an exception for a service animal of a prohibited breed, unless the dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.” As a certified service dog, Brewski posed no threat. In fact, he made everyday life easier for Connor, thereby contributing to the village as a whole.
According to the ADA, service dogs are allowed anywhere the owner is allowed to go. These animals are trained to perform tasks that make it possible for owners to cope with everyday tasks, in a variety of settings, like restaurants, offices and apartments.
Service Dogs vs Emotional Support Animals
The ADA, and most other state and local laws, deals with qualified service animals. They receive months of rigorous training and only a select few make the grade.
Support animals fill a different function, giving emotional sustenance to their owners, usually people with mental impairment or psychiatric disabilities. The pets, often dogs, provide companionship that has a therapeutic effect.
These animals, whether emotional support animals, or ESA, comfort animals, or therapy dogs, do not receive the same stringent schooling as service dogs. As a rule, an ESA or other support animal is not allowed anywhere that pets are barred, with the exception of housing.
Answers to Your Questions
The laws about where you can take a service dog, emotional support animal, or therapy dog are confusing. They vary from state to state, and even city to city.
USA Service Dog Registration wants to make it easier for you to find the information you need. They have a wide range of resources on their site for reference. They have sections on service dogs, emotional support animals, state laws, trainers, housing and traveling.
The site lets you register your service dog, emotional support animal or therapy dog in just 3 easy steps. And it’s free!
If you’re confused about where you can take your dog, what types of housing are acceptable or trying to register him, go to USA Service Dog Registration today.