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5 Things Business Owners Should Know About Employees with Service Animals

September 21, 2017

FACT: There are only two questions business owners are legally allowed to ask service-animal handlers—is the service animal required because of a disability and what work or task has the animal been trained to perform.

Here are five other guidelines for business owners to keep in mind when an employee has a service animal in the office.

Service dogs are there to do a job.

Service dogs may be cute, cuddly creatures, but first and foremost—they are there to do a job. It’s disrespectful to the handler to touch or interact with the animal. Always remember to ask before petting it, too. You don’t know what service they’re performing for the handler. You could distract the animal and potentially endanger the handler in the process.

Service animals perform a variety of tasks.

Service animals can do more than help individuals with low vision or who are blind cross the street. Many people with non-visible disabilities can improve quality of life and health through service animals. Some of the conditions service animals can help with include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, seizures and some forms of autism. For example, someone with PTSD might have a service animal that can curb negative thoughts, since those may spur an episode.

Customers with service animals cannot be segregated.

Businesses cannot charge customers extra or seat them separately from everyone else due to having a service animal. Besides this being illegal, it’s poor customer service. Service animals are almost always trained to sit quietly at their handlers’ feet.

Service animals should be under control.

Handlers are responsible for making sure the animal remains calm and collected while in public. Concerns about bothering others are not a valid reason for denying service, nor are concerns about allergies. Most service dogs are trained to relieve themselves on command and on any surface, so it’s unlikely they will leave a “mess” in your business. If the dog misbehaves and the handler does not take action, you can ask to have the animal removed.

People can have more than one service animal.

Some people with disabilities may have more than one animal that helps with different tasks. For example, a person who has a visual disability and a seizure disorder may use two service animals, one for each disability. Others may have two service animals for the same task, such as people who need help with stability when walking.

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