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Lawyer Lloyd

posted September 16th, 2012 by
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by Lloyd Benedict

Dear Lawyer Lloyd,

Q: Yesterday, I took my 3-yearold dog to a vet for an eye infection. The vet told me that my dog had to be neutered and have a rabies vaccination and be licensed, and that I was breaking the law if I did not have that done then. I reluctantly agreed and ended up paying a vet bill of $265 when it would have only been around $65 for the eye infection appointment. What can I do about this? Should I report the vet? Are my constitutional rights being violated here because my dog is my property, and how can anyone tell me how to handle my property?

Sincerely,

T-Party Tammy

Tulsa

 

Dear T-Party,

A: Really? Good grief; what planet are you from? There is no need to research what our Founding Fathers wrote with their quill pens concerning pet laws, as Tulsa has been kind enough to easily explain everything in their Ordinances. As such, you should take careful note that it is unlawful in Tulsa to own any dog or cat over 4 months old, unless such dog or cat has a current vaccination against rabies and is licensed. A license for one year, which requires a one-year rabies vaccination, is $3.

Alternatively, Tulsa allows you to obtain a three-year license for $9 ($3 per year) as long as your pet receives a three-year rabies vaccination. A violation of this Ordinance could cost you a $75 fine per each unlicensed dog or cat and another $75 fine for each that is unvaccinated.

You should also take note that Tulsa law requires every pet owner to attach a current license tag, for the animal, to collars or harnesses worn by his or her dogs or cats unless the dog or cat is permanently and uniquely identified with a microchip implant or tattoo. Violators of this offense can be fined $200.

Furthermore, it is unlawful to harbor, keep or possess a dog or cat over the age of 6 months, which has not been spayed or neutered unless the owner has secured a hobbyist exemption permit. In the event an owner of a dog or cat over the age of 6 months is unable to produce a current license or license tag for his dog or cat, a rebuttable presumption is created that the dog or cat has not been spayed or neutered. Every person violating this law shall be guilty of an offense and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $200, excluding costs, fees and assessments.

The way I see it, that vet saved you from receiving a fine of $475, not to mention the cost you would have incurred if your dog was impounded. If I were you, I would call that vet and thank him for doing the right thing, and stop using your warped sense of politics to dodge your lawful obligations and responsibilities as a pet owner.

Respectfully,

Lloyd K. Benedict

THE LAWS WE ALL NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SERVICE DOGS

posted September 15th, 2011 by
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By Lloyd Benedict

Service Animals have been around for many years and are becoming even more popular as our social environment has become more accessible to people with disabilities. Interestingly, there is no required license or registration process for service animals in the U.S. As such, any person could claim that an animal is a “service animal” and demand to bring it into locations where animals are normally prohibited, such as restaurants, medical facilities, pet-free housing and even airlines. However, one of the main goals of the recent changes within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Federal law that protects persons with disabilities, was to reduce misrepresentations committed by people who falsely claim that their pets are service animals.

   Another important goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to ensure that businesses and organizations, serving the public, 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, etc.

   A Service Dog is defined under Sec. 36.104 of the ADA as any dog 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. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability.

   Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort (i.e., therapy dogs), or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.
   Service Dogs must be allowed to go any public place their handler goes. It is required under federal and state laws that they be allowed to do so. They do not have to wear any specific identifying gear, including vests. Many Service Dog users choose to dress their dogs in a vest or other identifying apparel in order to make access easier, as it avoids many questions and confrontations. This is a personal choice, and is not required by law. It is illegal to ask for any special identification from Service Dog owners. Some carry ID cards, and may present them voluntarily, but this also is not required, and should not be expected. A business owner may NOT ask for “proof” or certification of the dog’s training as a condition of entry into their business.
   If a Service Dog misbehaves and places someone in danger, a business owner has the right to ask the partner to get control of the animal, or please leave. This should be only an isolated incident, and cannot be used to determine future access based upon what “might” happen or has happened in the past. A person with a Service Dog cannot be refused entry based on the actions of another service animal. For example, a business owner cannot say, “Oh, that last Service Dog team that was in here left a mess, so I’m not letting any Service Dogs into my store anymore.” This is discrimination and can be punishable by law. Remember, too, that Service Dogs are just that – dogs, and they can have bad days just like people can. They are not robots and cannot be expected to act perfectly all the time.

   You should also be aware that the ADA has some exceptions and additional rules. According to the ADA, a public accommodation (which basically means a business our public entity holding themselves accessible to the public) may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if:

  • The animal is out of control and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it; or
  • The animal is not housebroken.
  • If a public accommodation properly excludes a service animal under this section, it shall give the individual with a disability the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations without having the service animal on the premises.
  • A service animal shall be under the control of its handler. A service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler’s control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means).
  • A public accommodation is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal.
  • A public accommodation shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. A public accommodation may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. A public accommodation shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Generally, a public accommodation may not make these inquiries about a service animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person’s wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability).
  • Individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a place of public accommodation where members of the public, program participants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go.
  • A public accommodation shall not ask or require an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees, or to comply with other requirements generally not applicable to people without pets. If a public accommodation normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.

 

   Interestingly, and what I will forever keep in my “OMG, I can’t believe this is true” file, is that the ADA specifically makes a narrow exception to allows miniature horses also as service animals. However, before you go out and swap Fido out for Lil’ Trigger, you should be aware that there are some considerable differences when your service animal is a miniature horse, such as:

  • A public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.
  • Assessment factors: In determining whether reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures can be made to allow a miniature horse into a specific facility, a public accommodation shall consider:
  • The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse and whether the facility can accommodate these features;
  • Whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse;
  • Whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (Thank goodness for this rule.)
  • Whether the miniature horse’s presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation.

 

   Oklahoma also has laws concerning Service Dogs. However, if a state law ever conflicts with a federal law, then the federal law is the law that must be followed. For instance, Oklahoma requires any driver of a vehicle who knowingly approaches within 15 feet of a person who is in the roadway or at an intersection and who is wholly or partially blind and who is carrying a cane or walking stick white in color, or white tipped with red, or who is using a dog guide wearing a specialized harness, or who is wholly or partially deaf and is using a signal dog wearing an orange identifying collar, or who is physically handicapped and is using a service dog, shall immediately come to a full stop and take such precautions before proceeding as may be necessary to avoid accident or injury to the person wholly or partially blind, deaf or physically handicapped. For purposes of this section, a “dog guide” means any dog that is specially trained to guide a blind person. 

   Oklahoma law, in short, further defines and provides that:

  • Any {disabled person}who is a passenger on any public transportation operating within this state shall be entitled to have with him or her a guide, signal, or service dog specially trained or being trained for that purpose, without being required to pay an additional charge.
  • A {disabled person} shall not be denied admittance to any {public place} where the general public is regularly, normally, or customarily invited within the State of Oklahoma. Such {disabled persons}shall not be required to pay any additional charges for his or her guide, signal, or service dog, but shall be liable for any damage done to the premises by such dog.
  • A dog used by a deaf or hard-of-hearing person shall be required to wear an orange identifying collar.

 

   For the purposes of this Oklahoma Statute:

            1. “Physically handicapped person” means any person who has a physical impairment             which severely and permanently restricts mobility of two or more extremities, or who is         so severely disabled as to be unable to move without the aid of a wheelchair;

            2. “Service dog” means any dog individually trained to the physically handicapped             person’s requirements; and

            3. “Signal dog” means any dog trained to alert a deaf or hard-of-hearing person to             intruders or sounds.

   Oklahoma even has very strict laws that protect Service Animals. Note that as you read this law, it uses the term “Service Animals” not just “Service Dogs.” I was also unable to find any federal laws that address this same issue, therefore Oklahoma’s law is the controlling one.  According to Oklahoma Statutes:

  • No person shall willfully harm, including torture, torment, beat, mutilate, injure, disable, or otherwise mistreat or kill a service animal that is used for the benefit of any handicapped person in the state.
  • No person including, but not limited to, any municipality or political subdivision of the state, shall willfully interfere with the lawful performance of any service animal used for the benefit of any handicapped person in the state.
  • Any person convicted of violating any of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000.00, or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding 1 year, or both.
  • Any person who knowingly and willfully and without lawful cause or justification violates the provisions of this section, during the commission of a misdemeanor or felony, shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000.00, or by imprisonment not exceeding 2 years, or both.
  • Any person who {injures or kills} or to interfere with a service animal in any place where the service animal resides or is performing, shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor. Additionally, the court shall order the violator to make restitution to the owner of the service animal for actual costs and expenses incurred as a direct result of any injury, disability or death caused to the service animal, including but not limited to costs of replacing and training any new service animal when a service animal is killed, disabled or unable to perform due to injury.
  • No {government entity}, or any official thereof, may enact or enforce any ordinance or rule that requires any registration or licensing fee for any service animal as defined in this section that is used for the purpose of guiding or assisting a disabled person who has a sensory, mental, or physical impairment. Any official violating the provisions of this paragraph shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $50.00.
  • A “service animal” means an animal that is trained for the purpose of guiding or assisting a disabled person who has a sensory, mental, or physical impairment.

 

   Lastly, Oklahoma’s Landlord and Tennant Act prohibit discrimination against tenants who have “Service Dogs.” The law states: (as you read, keep in mind that the Landlord would also be held to the same ADA rules as discussed above).

  • A landlord shall not deny or terminate a tenancy to a blind, deaf, or physically handicapped person because of the guide, signal, or service dog of such person.

 

   The following list will be helpful for those of you who may require enforcement of these laws against those who violate your rights as a Service Animal owner or if you are a business owner who needs further clarification:

Problems with Access to Public Places: contact Dept. of Justice at (800) 514-0301; TTY (800) 514-0383; www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm.

Problems with Housing: contact Dept. of Housing and Urban Development at (202) 708-1112; TTY (202) 708-1455; www.hud.gov.

Problems with Traveling: Dept. of Transportation at (202) 366-4000; www.dot.gov.

Problems at Work: contact Job Accommodation Network, a free service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the Department of Labor, at (800) 526-7234.