Americans With Disabilities Act
Department of Justice
September 15, 2010
Page Numbering 76-77 (Printout numbering 81-82)
Providing minimal protection.
As previously noted, the 1991 title II regulation does not contain specific language concerning service animals. The 1991 title III regulation included language stating that ‘‘minimal protection’’ was a task that could be performed by an individually trained service animal for the benefit of an individual with a disability. In the Department’s ‘‘ADA Business Brief on Service Animals’’ (2002), the Department interpreted the ‘‘minimal protection’’ language within the context of a seizure (i.e., alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure).
The Department received many comments in response to the question of whether the ‘‘minimal protection’’ language should be clarified. Many commenters urged the removal of the ‘‘minimal protection’’ language from the service animal definition for two reasons:
(1) The phrase can be interpreted to allow any dog that is trained to be aggressive to qualify as a service animal simply by pairing the animal with a person with a disability; and
(2) the phrase can be interpreted to allow any untrained pet dog to qualify as a service animal, since many consider the mere presence of a dog to be a crime deterrent, and thus sufficient to meet the minimal protection standard.
These commenters argued, and the Department agrees, that these interpretations were not contemplated under the original title III regulation, and, for the purposes of the final title II regulations, the meaning of ‘‘minimal protection’’ must be made clear.
While many commenters stated that they believe that the ‘‘minimal protection’’ language should be eliminated, other commenters recommended that the language be clarified, but retained. Commenters favoring clarification of the term suggested that the Department explicitly exclude the function of attack or exclude those animals that are trained solely to be aggressive or protective. Other commenters
identified nonviolent behavioral tasks that could be construed as minimally protective, such as interrupting self-mutilation, providing safety checks and room searches, reminding the individual to take medications, and protecting the individual from injury resulting from seizures or unconsciousness.
Several commenters noted that the existing direct threat defense, which allows the exclusion of a service animal if the animal exhibits unwarranted or unprovoked violent behavior or poses a direct threat, prevents the use of ‘‘attack dogs’’ as service animals. One commenter noted that the use of a service animal trained to provide ‘‘minimal protection’’ may impede access to care in an emergency, for example, where the first responder, usually a title II entity, is unable or reluctant to approach a person with a disability because the individual’s service animal is in a protective posture suggestive of aggression.
Many organizations and individuals stated*that in the general dog training community,*‘‘protection’’ is code for attack or aggression*training and should be removed from the*definition. Commenters stated that there*appears to be a broadly held misconception that*aggression-trained animals are appropriate service animals for persons with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While many individuals with PTSD may benefit by using a service animal, the work or tasks performed appropriately by such an animal would not involve unprovoked aggression but could include actively cuing the individual by nudging or pawing the individual to alert to the onset of an episode and removing the individual from the anxiety-provoking environment.
The Department recognizes that despite its best efforts to provide clarification, the ‘‘minimal protection’’ language appears to have been misinterpreted. While the Department maintains that protection from danger is one of the key functions that service animals perform for the benefit of persons with disabilities, the Department recognizes that an animal individually trained to provide aggressive protection, such as an attack dog, is not appropriately considered a service animal. Therefore, the Department has decided to modify the ‘‘minimal protection’’ language to read ‘‘nonviolent protection,’’ thereby excluding so-called ‘‘attack dogs’’ or dogs with traditional ‘‘protection training’’ as service animals. The Department believes that this modification to the service animal definition will eliminate confusion, without restricting unnecessarily the type of work or tasks that service animals may perform. The Department’s modification also clarifies that the crime-deterrent effect of a dog’s presence, by itself, does not qualify as work or tasks for purposes of the service animal definition.
Changes in format layout were made by myself to make reading easier.