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Service v. Emotional Animals: What’s The Law?

In 2018, the Washington State Legislature passed new regulations regarding service animals. The law  went into effect in 2019 and states that service animals are restricted to dogs and small horses and that emotional support and comfort animals are excluded from the definition of service animals.

Horses and Dogs Only!

“Service animal” means any dog or miniature horse, as discussed in RCW 49.60.214, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability . . . the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks.

State law now has less flexibility on what species of animal may be trained as a service animal. “Service animal” is defined as either a dog or a miniature horse. This change eliminates the possibility of trained cats, monkeys, birds, larger horses, or other animals.

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The attorneys and staff with Althauser Rayan Abbarno have been representing individuals and businesses in our community since 1946.  Providing information about the law and changes to the law help our clients and potential clients be better prepared.  Call our attorneys for a consultation in Centralia or Olympia at (360) 736-1301 or visit www.CentraliaLaw.com

Are Businesses Allowed To Ask Questions About Animals?

RCW 49.60.214 is a new section describing the civil infraction of misrepresenting an animal as a service animal and spelling out the two questions that may be asked to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal.

The two questions are:

  • Is the animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

An enforcement officer or other person at a place of public accommodation cannot ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability, request or require documentation, or request that the animal demonstrate the type of work it is trained to do.

Civil Enforcement

It is now a civil infraction with a maximum fine of $500 to represent that an animal is a service animal when the person knew or should have known that the animal in question did not meet the statutory definition of a service animal.

Federal Law

Although this article does not include federal law about service animals, I would note that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has provisions requiring accommodations for persons with service animals. Washington state law is now more in line with federal law. For example, federal regulations provide: [t]he work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

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