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Service animals

Published September 20, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In his Sept. 10 column ("Is that service dog real? Check its ID"), Robert Kirby complains, "Today just about any dog can be a service dog." The following day, several service-dog owners voiced similar concerns in "Four-Legged Impostors Give Service Dog Owners Pause," a segment on NPR's "Morning Edition." I appreciate the frustration evident in both.

While taking different approaches, both the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act and the Fair Housing Amendments Act recognize the important role a "service" or "emotional support" animal plays in allowing its owner to be a more independent, active or productive member of his or her community.

Thankfully, both pieces agree that requiring standardized identification is one way to reduce the unnecessary confusion over the legitimacy of a service or emotional support animal and the vital work it does. Let's work with our congressional delegation to make this important and sensible change.

Like us, animals come in all shapes and sizes. Like us, they have a variety of visible and invisible strengths and abilities. And, just as we can't tell much about a person by appearance, we can't know the value of an animal to its owner with a disability simply by looking at it.

Vard McGuire Disability Law Center

Salt Lake City