Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Companion or Service Animal? Maine Seeks to Draw the L

Google it. You can buy service animal gear, patches, harness and more online.

A Holographic Service Dog ID Card for sale on Amazon
While it may not be required, a Service Dog ID Card like the one pictured above, it is a good idea for anyone with a service dog in case of a medical emergency.

Another retailer who sells service animal products is Free My Paws. Free My Paws does a good job; in my opinion referencing the ADA.

Maine is taking a step forward to limit those who pose pets as service animals. It's not yet clear how the law or fine will be enforced. It's a controversial issue and it should be interesting to see what happens.

My Journey

Many of you likely do not know I have a significant vision impairment. I am legally blind in one eye and because of this I have no depth perception, and limited peripheral vision. I don't see in 3D. I cannot watch 3D movies even, as to view them correctly your brain must put the picture together from both eyes for the effect. My brain picks up cues to tell me where things are in relation to others things, to estimate distance, depth and so on.

I was a preemie twin born in the 80's. I now have cataracts in both eyes. I grew up when the ADA became law. My condition is called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) and is similar to those diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy. I have used low vision aids such as a monocular, software for my computer, and now I am able to merely adjust the screen size as needed, which is nice. I learned to type on an Apple IIE so as not to "hunt and peck" and touch type instead. As a result my handwriting is legible; but, I have to work at it. It's much quicker and I prefer to type.

One benefit I've found to having sight in only one eye is that I am a pretty good shot. Most hunters and/or target shooters will close one eye and focus on their target; I don't have to. Now, on a good day my best corrected vision is 20/30. My Fiancee and I went through Maine's Hunter Safety Course. We plan to go hunting for deer this season. Perhaps if we both bag a deer, I'll have the chance to experiment cooking with venison. I'm not a big fan; but, Hubby and our daughter love it. I prefer moose and hope to put in for the lottery at some point in coming years. At some point in my life; if and when I lose my sight I may need to rely on a service animal for some things.

Adaptations and Service Dog Training

I have been to many workshops, trainings and presentations across the state for those with blindness and vision related disabilities. One man I met at a workshop through Voc. Rehab. was completely blind; but, worked as an organic farmer. He spoke of the technology he used and how he made his garden. It was really amazing to hear. He told us about service animals and about the process of obtaining a service dog due to being blind. Of course there is a whole application process, fees, etc. The disabled person must go through cane training first and use a cane. Once approved, the person and dog go through a week or so of vigorous training, beyond what the animal has been trained for already. The final test in training is when the person crosses the road with a car coming at them, if the dog does not stop or put themselves in front of the person- the dog fails and it's back to step 1.

From the Associated Press:

Those who try to pass off pets as service animals in Maine now face a $1,000 fine under a new law.

The Maine Human Rights Commission says many people in the disability community are unaware of the changes, which include a new category called assistance animals. Such animals are either trained or determined to be necessary to provide comfort and support to people with physical or mental disabilities.

Service animals, in contrast, are dogs trained to do specific tasks like pulling a wheelchair or guiding individuals who are totally or partially blind.

You can find the full article here: Service Dog or Furry Friend? Maine clarifies law

Policy on Service Animals

Sections II and VII discuss the definition of a service animal and service animals own regards to the general public.

I. Policy Statement.

It is the policy of the Office of the Maine Attorney General (“Office”) to support employees with a physical or mental disability by permitting the use of Service Animals as part of a reasonable accommodation plan which has been developed in conjunction with the Office’s Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator (“Office EEO Coordinator”) or the State’s Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator (“State EEO Coordinator”) within the parameters set forth in this Policy. It is the policy of the Office of the Attorney General to allow Service Animals to accompany members of the public while in the office on state business and to allow access to the premises to the same extent as allowed to other members of the public. It is also the policy of the Office to permit members of the public who are especially trained service dog trainers, while engaged in the actual training process and activities of service dogs, the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as other members of the public, as provided by 17 M.R.S.A. § 1312. 

II. Definitions.

“Service Animal” means an animal that: 
  • has been determined necessary to mitigate the effects of a physical or mental disability by a physician, psychologist, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner or licensed social worker; or
  • has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a physical or mental disability , including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to intruders or sounds, providing reasonable protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items.

IV. Prerequisites for Service Animals.

No Service Animal will be permitted in the workplace until the animal:
  • is licensed by an appropriate municipal clerk, or veterinary licensing agent;
  • is current on all recommended vaccinations; and
  • has completed training from an established service animal training organization or has been evaluated by a certified animal trainer and found to have a sound temperament suitable for a workplace setting. If the animal is evaluated by a certified animal trainer, the animal’s behavior must be tested indoors around unknown people, including children, and unexpected distractions and noises.

V. Standards Applicable to Service Animals within the Workplace Setting.

All Service Animals are expected to meet the following standards:
  • the health and care of the animal is the sole responsibility of the Responsible Employee;
  • the animal must be within the Responsible Employee’s control at all times, either by means of a leash, containment (e.g. crate) or voice command;
  • the animal must behave in a non-aggressive manner at all times (e.g. no jumping, growling, snarling, biting or snapping);
  • the animal must not be disruptive in the workplace (e.g. barking, whining or destructive of state or personal property)
  • the animal should, if practicable, wear a vest or backpack to be readily identifiable as a Service Animal.
Failure to meet any of the above standards may result in the temporary or permanent removal of the Service Animal from the workplace.

VI. Co-workers.

Considerations relative to co-workers:
  • The Office will notify co-workers of the pending placement of a Service Animal and give the opportunity for co-workers to express concerns in advance.
  • The Office will develop a plan to address the concerns of employees who are allergic to or fearful of a potential Service Animal, if appropriate.
  • The Responsible Employee should post prominent notices at his or her workstation with information for co-workers about interactions with the animal, such as “please ask before petting or speaking to” the Service Animal. 

VII. Members of the Public.

It is permissible to ask a member of the public accompanied by an animal whether an animal is a Service Animal and whether it is necessary for a disability. Generally, it is not permissible to ask about the nature of the person’s disability or for documentation supporting the Service Animal. If there are any questions about the use of a Service Animal by members of the public, the matter should be referred to the Office EEO Coordinator. 

VIII. Removal of Service Animal.

A Service Animal may be removed from the premises if it is a direct threat to the health or safety of others, if it would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others, or if the animal substantially interferes with the work of the Office.
For full definition and coverage of the Laws regarding Service Animals in Maine please visit: Service Animals at Maine.gov

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting my blog! I would love to hear from you.