Treat Ohio Service Dog Owners Equally
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Why are ALL of us, as owners of service dogs, NOT being treated equally in the State of Ohio?
We are being divided into different categories, with the result that some of us are being denied equal access to a State program that provides for free and permanent registration of our service dogs. Ohio Revised Code 955.011 titled “Registration for guide, leader, hearing or support dogs to be free and permanent” contains language that prevents ALL owners of service dogs from having equal access to a State program.
Definition of Discrimination by Merriam-Webster ... the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people. Ex: John Doe has a disablity and his service dog is privately trained, by himself and an experienced friend over the last 2 years. Jane Doe has a disability and her service dog was trained by a nonprofit agency for 6 months. If both service dog owners walked into the auditor office together and documentation is requested, John Doe and all owners like him (with privately trained service dogs) would be seperated, treated less than, and ultimately denied the free and permanate tag and registration for assistance dogs. The owner must then pay a fee, many are embarassed and some experience negative reactions from others. Jane Doe and all owners like her service dog (whom is agency trained) and can produce a certificate or badge would be approved and acknowledged.
ORC 955.011(A) requires that the owner “show proof by certificate or other means that the dog is an assistance dog” in order to be exempt from an annual fee for registration of a service dog. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the U.S. Department of Justice, "...entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal...". "There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal." Since the ADA provides greater protection for individuals with disabilities and takes priority over State or local laws or regulations, the current language in ORC 955.011(A) is contrary to the ADA and denies ALL owners of service dogs equal access to a State program.
ORC 955.011(B) defines the meaning of “mobility impaired person, “blind”, “assistance dog”, “guide dog”, “hearing dog,” and “service dog,” but it fails to define the meaning of the words “leader” and “support” that are included in the title of ORC 955.011. ORC 955.011(B)(3) defines an assistance dog as “a guide dog, hearing dog, or service dog that has been trained by a nonprofit special agency." ORC 955.011(B)(6) defines a service dog as “a dog that has been trained or is in training to assist a mobility impaired person.” The ADA defines a service animal (which includes a service dog) 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 registered by a state or local government. The ADA does NOT limit the definition of “service dog” to one that provides assistance to a mobility impaired person, while ORC 955.011(B)(6) does. The ADA definition of “service animal” states that the animal is individually trained, while ORC 955.011(B)(3) states that a service animal (i.e. service dog) must be trained by a nonprofit special agency. Since the ADA often provides greater protection for individuals with disabilities and takes priority over State or local laws or regulations, the current language in ORC 955.011(B) is contrary to the ADA and denies ALL owners of service dogs equal access to a State program.
Owners with privately trained service dogs vs Owners with agency trained service dogs - They are being divided into two groups based on documentation. One group is not afforded equal opportunity to the same benefits or ability to the same outcome that is provided to the other group.
The Americans with Disabilities Act under Section 28 C.F.R. 35.130(b)(3)Provide a qualified individual with a disability with an aid, benefit, or service that is not as effective in affording equal opportunity to obtain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement as that provided to others;
In summary, ORC 955.011 denies equal access to a State program that provides free and permanent registration of a dog that provides assistance to its owner who has a disability. Ohio Revised Code 955.011 permits the denial of equal access to this State program by:
- Requiring documentation, contrary to the ADA.
- Defining “service dog” to apply to only a mobility-impaired person, contrary to the ADA.
- Defining “assistance dog” to apply to only those trained by a non-profit special agency, contrary to the ADA.
ALL owners of service dogs should be treated equally and respectfully when attempting to avail themselves of this program. Owners of service dogs should NOT be subject to discrimination, intimidation, and embarrassment when applying for free and permanent registration of service dogs through each Ohio county’s auditor’s office.
The State of Ohio must ensure that its agents in each county’s auditor’s office are educated about the rights afforded individuals under the ADA. "Staff may ask two questions according to the ADA:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and
- what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.
Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task."
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