The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that gives the overall structure and intent for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.
Pursuant to the ADA, if you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may only ask the person who has the animal if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. Documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal cannot be required.
While the ADA does not override other federal laws, it will override state or local laws that provide less protection or benefit. However, if a state or local law provides more protection or greater benefit, it will override the ADA.
Ohio requires that all dogs be licensed, including service dogs.
Ohio Revised Code section 955.011(A) states that “[w]hen an application is made for registration of an assistance dog and the owner can show proof by certificate or other means that the dog is an assistance dog… certificates and tags stamped ‘Ohio Assistance Dog-Permanent Registration,’ with registration number, shall be issued…” and further, in (B)(3) that “’Assistance dog’ means a guide dog, hearing dog, or service dog that has been trained by a nonprofit special agency.”
This language in the Revised Code conflicts with protections specifically afforded by the ADA.
First, that an assistance dog may only be trained by a nonprofit special agency. Pursuant to the ADA, there is no requirement that a service animal be trained by a nonprofit agency, just that it be individually trained.
Second, that proof by certificate or other means is required for the issuance of assistance dog tags. Pursuant to the ADA, if you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may only ask the person who has the animal if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. Documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal cannot be required.
While many Ohio counties simply follow the provisions afforded by the ADA when issuing registration tags, some still wrongly require proof that a service dog was trained by a nonprofit agency.
For more information, contact our offices in Fairlawn and Sharon Center at (877) 239-4480. We help clients resolve dog registration disputes throughout Ohio.