Emotional support animals are not required to have the same level of training as service animals — so people can get hurt if a dog gets aggressive in public.
More than ever before, Americans are aware of and supportive of the issues facing people with disabilities. There are many laws in place designed to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and to ensure that their needs are met. One such area is in the field of service animals. While these animals used to be a rare sight, more people are utilizing dogs and other animals for a broad range of issues, ranging from physical disabilities to mental health issues and more.
With more assistance animals in public spaces than ever before, the possibility that an animal may hurt someone rises. This may be even more of a possibility with a relatively new type of service animal, known as emotional support animals. In contrast to service animals — which are specifically trained to do a task to help a person with a recognized disability — emotional support animals do not have to have any training whatsoever. Instead, their role is to provide emotional comfort to their owners. Because they may be allowed in many public spaces and are not required to have any training, the chances that an emotional support animal will harm another person are higher than those for a service animal.
The Law Regarding Emotional Support Animals
Unlike the owners service dogs, the owners of emotional support animals are not protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act. This means that stores, restaurants and other public spaces are not legally obligated to allow them entrance. However, many businesses will permit these dogs and other animals to enter to help their customers who may have a disability that would otherwise prevent them from shopping or eating at their establishment. This could raise issues with pets that are not specifically trained to be able to handle loud, crowded or confusing public spaces (as service animals are). So what happens if that emotional support dog acts up and bites another person?
If a dog bites you — even if that dog is an emotional support animal — then the owner will be held responsible for your injuries, provided that you did not provoke the animal in some way. You are able to file a claim against the owner of the dog and will potentially be able to recover for your medical bills, lost wages, and even pain and suffering. It does not matter if the dog was present to provide emotional comfort to its owner — if it bites another person, the owner is liable. This is particularly true when the owner knows that his or her dog has not been specially trained to tolerate being in a store or restaurant, or if the pet has a history of being aggressive. If you have been bitten by a support animal, contact a skilled dog bite attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you file a claim and make sure that important evidence — like store surveillance video of the incident — is retained to support your case.
At the Law Offices of Larry H. Parker, we support the rights of people with disabilities to receive assistance and comfort from animals. However, if a dog or other support animal has not been properly trained and hurts another person, the owner of that animal should be held responsible. We have decades of experience handling all types of personal injury cases, including dog bite lawsuits. Contact our office today at 800-333-0000 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free initial consultation.