NO MORE MONKEY BUSINESS

“Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities – such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.”

U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section., ADA Business Brief, http://www.ada.gov/business.htm#Anchor-ADA-11481

Just so you know, the Justice Department is the government agency tasked with enforcing Title III of the ADA. Title III deals with, among other things, access to public places. So, when the Justice Department defines what a service animal is, it has an impact on what animal you can bring with you into the store, theater, barber shop or on the bus. It might also spill over into the workplace, because the EEOC has not defined service animal but it is clear that bringing a service animal to work just might be a reasonable accommodation.

“So what?” you say, Bob gets to bring his dog to work. No one can have a problem with that right?  Not so fast my friend. What if Bob wants to bring his ferret to work or his boa constrictor or his monkey?  “Never happen!” you say! Want to bet.  In just the last couple of months there have been news stories about people denied access to public places with just these kinds of animals.  You can see them at:  http://www.wltx.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=79946&catid=35 (ferret in the mall); http://www.tdn.com/articles/2009/10/19/breaking_news/doc4adc801305644061734709.txt (5 ft. boa constrictor in Burger King); http://www.news-leader.com/article/2009910230358(Monkey in Wal-Mart). 

 So, in 2008 the DOJ announced plans to modify the definition of what can and can’t be a service animal:

 Proposed revisions published in the Federal Register (PDF) would exclude not only snakes and other reptiles, but rabbits, farm animals, amphibians, ferrets, rodents and wild animals including monkeys born in captivity, according to the newspaper. They would also eliminate from the definition of service animal creatures who simply provide emotional support, comfort or companionship.

 http://www.abajournal.com/news/isboaconstrictoraserviceanimalproposeddojstandardsaysno/

But, after the DOJ got pummeled with angry comments, the Obama administration delayed implementation of the proposed regulations until its team of civil rights experts could look at the issue. So?  Is it possible that some bureaucrat may decide that I have to eat my linguine next to a monkey? Or worse, that the guy in the next cubicle can bring his service spider to work if some doctor is willing to certify that it provides him comfort? You may find it strange that a big strapping guy like me is afraid of spiders, but I am terrified of them and frankly, monkeys creep me out. I’d rather not have either sitting next to me at work or while I watch a movie or while I eat.  And I don’t want to have to explain to an angry group of employees why Bill gets to bring his boa constrictor to work. What happens to Sally’s ferret when that sucker gets loose in the office?  Nothing but trouble.

 I have just one thing to say to our friends and neighbors in D.C.  Really, no more monkey business.