Only service animals allowed in stores, restaurants

Only service animals allowed in stores, restaurants »Play Video

SALEM, Ore. – The state of Oregon is taking action after hearing complaints about pet owners who take their animals with them to grocery stores and restaurants.

After fielding an increase in calls from people upset with dogs urinating in stores, sniffing produce and defecating in carts, the state's Food Safety Division has launched an information campaign.

Posters will remind pet owners and store managers that it is illegal for pets to be at places where food is sold. Service animals are exempt from the ban.

A service animal is legally "any guide dog, signal dog or any other animal individually trained to provide a service to an individual with a disability," Department of Justice Spokesman Alejandro Miyar told KATU.

The DOJ's Civil Rights Division oversees the Americans with Disabilities Act, which falls within its Disability Rights division. The Act defines a disability as any "mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities."

"Places like restaurants [and grocery stores] are asked to make a 'reasonable accommodation,'" said Miyar. "Exactly what that reasonable accommodation is, is what works itself out if someone were to have a complaint. In general, a service animal should just be allowed to accompany the person that they're serving wherever they go."

However, here's the problem for opponents: The ADA "toolkit" for business compliance "makes clear that there isn't a 'service animal certification board' so there isn't a specific certification required," Miyar said, "and individuals are not required to provide proof that the animal is a service animal."

Review of rules in store
There have been modifications to the rules and regulations of the ADA over the years. A review of the rules that began in 2008, was suspended during the administration change and will start up again soon, was making strides toward limiting the species of animals covered under the Act. Miyar was not able to provide insight into what species are being discussed for inclusion, though KATU has covered cases of miniature ponies and elephants being used for service.

"We received thousands of public comments during the last rule-making procedure ... and with the new administration now on board we have to ask for public comment once again," Miyar said. "The ADA's rules and regulations certainly evolve to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities as well as the needs of the greater public."

New rules are expected by the end of this year.

"The species limitation was one of the major questions last time," Miyar said. "But the service animal issue does receive a lot of public comment."