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Service Animals

At the Egan Legal Team, we have a particular interest in taking on businesses such as restaurants who refuse to admit patrons accompanied by service animals.

In Oregon, it is a crime to refuse to let a service animal accompany a disabled person. ORS 346.620(1), ORS 346.991(2). Violation of this statute is a Class C misdemeanor, and if convicted, the perpetrator may be fined up to $1,000 and/or jailed for up to 30 days. Believe it or not, some law enforcement authorities and even district attorneys are not aware of this law.

In addition to being a crime, it is a violation of civil rights to refuse to let a service animal accompany its disabled owner. The ADA and Oregon statute 659A prohibit discrimination because of a disability, and this includes service animals. Here are some facts you should know about public accommodations and service animals:

    Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.
    Seeing-eye dogs for the vision-impaired are not the only service animals covered by the law. Public accommodations must accommodate any service animal, for any disability. Some examples are hearing and signal animals (dogs, cats, monkeys, pigs) for the hearing or other sensory-impaired, seizure-response animals (dogs, cats, birds), monkeys for paraplegics, non-dog seeing-eye animals (goats, ponies or pigs), and various emotional support animals (such as birds, rabbits and ferrets) for various severe emotional disabilities such as autism.
    Businesses may ask if an animal is a service animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform, but cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person's disability.
    People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons, or treated less favorably than other patrons. However, if a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.
    A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the animal is out of control and the animal's owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. In these cases, the business should give the person with the disability the option to obtain goods and services without having the animal on the premises. Allergies and fear of animals are generally not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people with service animals.
    Businesses that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
    A business is not required to provide care or food for a service animal or provide a special location for it to relieve itself.
Sometimes, a lawsuit is the only way to get a stubborn business's attention, and it may also prevent a problem for the next disabled person who comes along. If you have been the target of discrimination because of your use of a service animal, contact the Egan Legal Team to find out more about your options.

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