International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners
International Association of Assistance Dog Partners
P.O. Box 638 * Sterling Heights, MI 48311 * USA
(586) 826-3938 * firstname.lastname@example.org * www.iaadp.org
Senator George Winner, Chair
Investigations and Government Operations Committee
New York State Senate
Albany, NY 12247
Dear Senator Winner,
I would like to commend you and other members of the legislature for your concern about access rights to public accommodations for people with disabilities accompanied by their guide, hearing or service dogs.
Publicity surrounding the two recent cases of a young man denied the right to attend classes with his hearing dog in a Long Island high school and an attorney denied the right to bring her service dog into a courtroom has brought this pattern of discrimination to the attention of the public. The legislative response has been swift and noteworthy, both on the Senate's part and the Human Rights Commission. However, there are some major shortcomings to these legislative efforts needing to be rectified if your goal is to be realized.
Narrowly defining guide, hearing and service dogs to those trained by a school or program, or trained by a professional trainer, excludes from the law's protection those assistance dogs trained by their disabled handlers. This runs counter to the intent and language of the Americans with Disabilities Act and, if adopted, would exclude many New York state residents from having public accommodation access with their assistance dogs.
Hearing and service dogs, in contrast to guide dogs, are in great demand and the supply falls far short of the need. Most hearing and service dog training programs or schools have long waiting lists, frequently resulting in a two year or longer hiatus between application and graduation. As a result, many disabled New Yorkers and others throughout the Nation train their own hearing or service dogs. Another approach to obtaining a working dog is to retain the services of a dog trainer. The former category of hearing and service dog partners would be completely disenfranchised and the latter would only receive the protection of the law if they paid for the dog trainer's services.
As President of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), a consumer advocacy organization with 2,000 disabled members working with guide, hearing or service dogs, I want to bring this problem to your attention and offer a reasonable solution. There are three alternative options that can be taken to rectify the situation. One is to accept the definition of service animal developed by the United States Department of Justice. Another is to select the definition set forth by the Coalition of Assistance Dog Organizations (CADO). CADO consists of IAADP, Guide Dog Users Inc., a consumer advocacy organization of blind individuals partnered with guide dogs, and Assistance Dogs International (ADI), a coalition of programs and schools training guide, hearing and service dogs. The third alternative is to incorporate the language developed by Jeannie Waters, the attorney involved in the courtroom access denial case and a constituent of Senator Skelos. The three definitions appear at the end of this letter.
Of the 2,000 IAADP assistance dog partner members, the vast majority work with service dogs. Many of these teams reside in New York State and many of these teams consist of dogs trained by their handlers for work such as retrieving dropped or requested objects, opening and closing doors, providing balance support, helping to pull wheelchairs and alerting or responding to medical conditions or emergencies, such as the onset of a seizure or panic attack. The access rights of these teams must be protected in any projected legislation. Furthermore, if New York State established a more restrictive definition of service animal or assistance dog, it would be considered a violation of the ADA which specifically notes in the preamble that wherever state and federal laws conflict, the statute providing the greater protection to the civil rights of people with disabilities will take precedence.
I hope your committee will take IAADP's concerns into consideration and help draft a bill and human rights codes that will help end educational, courtroom and other denials of access to working assistance dog teams. Including reference to public schools and court houses in the list of public accommodations would help guarantee access to these institutions.
If you have any questions, please contact me.
Ed Eames, Ph.D., President
Attachments: Three Alternative Definitions of Service Animal and Assistance Dog
Three Alternative Definitions of Service Animal and Assistance Dog
Definition of Service Animal from the Federal Register, Feb. 22, 1991:
Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability including, but not limited to guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items.
Definition proposed by the Coalition of Assistance Dog Organizations:
Service animal means an assistance dog, and may include other animals specifically trained to perform physical tasks to mitigate the effects of an individual's disability. Assistance dogs include guide dogs that guide individuals who are legally blind; hearing dogs that alert individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to specific sounds; and, service dogs for individuals with disabilities other than blindness or deafness. Service dogs are trained to perform a variety of physical tasks including but not limited to pulling a wheelchair, lending balance support, picking up dropped objects or providing assistance in a medical crisis. The presence of an animal for comfort, protection or personal defense does not qualify as training to mitigate the effects of an individual's disability and therefore does not qualify said animal as a service animal.
The definition proposed by Jeannie Waters is:
a) "Assistance Dog" means a dog that has been or is being trained as a Guide Dog, Hearing Dog, or Service Dog. Such terms are further defined as follows:
(I) "Guide Dog" means a dog that has been or is being specially trained to aid a particular blind or visually impaired person.
(II) "Hearing Dog" means a dog that has been or is being specially trained to aid a particular deaf or hard of hearing person.
(III) "Service Dog" means a dog that has been or is being specially trained to aid a person with a disability other than sight or hearing. Service dogs are trained to perform a variety of physical tasks including but not limited to pulling a wheelchair, lending balance support, picking up dropped objects, alerting to epileptic seizures or providing other assistance in a medical crisis. The presence of an animal for comfort, protection or personal defense does not qualify as training to mitigate the
effects of an individual's disability and therefore does not qualify said animal as a service animal._