Requirements for service and assistance animals

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- There seems to be a lot of confusion about which service animals are allowed in businesses.

One group is trying to combat that, by traveling across the state informing business owners and those with disabilities of their rights.

"Some people don't like the idea of a dog being at a restaurant, however, some actually need that very badly and it's the only way they can get around and go to restaurants,” said Mark Smith, owner of Main Street Bagels.

Knowing which pets are allowed and which ones are prohibited creates a gray area for restaurants.

"We are very limited in how you can enforce that,” said Smith.

Disability Law Colorado hosted a two-hour informational session at the Mesa County Workforce Center Thursday for people with disabilities, animal control officers, and business owners to help clear things up.

"It's always good to know specifics on what we can ask and what we can allow people to do and what we can require people to do,” said Mike Duncan, Director of Animal Services for the City of Montrose Police Department.

"Service animals, which have to be dogs or miniature horses, must be allowed, businesses can ask two questions. They can ask 'is this animal a service animal required for your disability' and 'what task is it trained to perform' and then even if an animal is legitimate service animal it can be asked to leave a business if it’s out of control or not housebroken,” said Emily Harvey, Staff Attorney, Disability Law Colorado.

However, rules vary depending on whether it's a service animal or an emotional support animal.

"They could get an individual accommodation to bring their emotional support animal into an individual restaurant but they are not automatically considered to be allowed like service animals are,” said Harvey.

As of January 2017, it's now a crime in Colorado for someone to fake their pet as a service animal.

"It is a real issue to take your pets out in public and pretend they’re service animals because you are harming people with disabilities who have legitimate service animals and we wanted to make sure that people knew that,” said Harvey.

They say pets, assistance, companion or emotional support animals may not be trained to perform a task for their owner. That means they may not be allowed in businesses, whereas service animals are.

"I think one of the biggest things is knowing the difference between service animals and support animals,” said Duncan.

Assistance animals must be a dog or miniature horse. They are not bound by weight, size or breed restrictions.

Disability Law Colorado says they can come speak with your business directly. For more information click on the link to the right of this article.

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