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Violating the rights of service dog owners

On Behalf of | Jan 17, 2017 | Civil Rights |

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) is quite clear when it comes to the issue of equal access. Owners, managers and employees are forbidden from denying full and equal access based on a number of categories, including race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation and disability. When it comes to people with disabilities who use service animals, the effect of the law is that animal, be it a guide dog or other type of service animal, and its owner cannot be denied access. This applies to restaurants, shopping centers, rental properties, schools and just about property on which members of the public can go. Federal law likewise prohibits people from denying access to service animals and their owners.

Misuse and misunderstandings

In recent years, situations of fraud involving service dogs have drawn headlines. Several states have passed laws to combat the problem of people misrepresenting their pets as service animals. The laws and bad press may leave some with the impression that many or most of the people traveling with service animals do not actually need them. This impression is why the primary victims of service animal fraud are not property owners, but rather people with disabilities who rely on their service animals. 

The headlines are not the only problem. There is a broad misunderstanding in the public regarding the use of service animals. The Americans with Disabilities Act considers a service dog to be any dog trained individually to do work or perform tasks for the disabled person. Public understanding of service animals is often limited to seeing eye dogs used to assist people who suffer from blindness. The use of service animals has expanded recently and has always encompassed more than just animals trained to assist the blind.

New Jersey law

The law in New Jersey specifically approves the use of service animals in connection with students suffering from autism and other developmental disabilities. Service animals are to be permitted everywhere from school buses and classrooms to any area of public accommodation. A policy that excludes these animals is in violation of the law. Anyone denied access to such an area for their service animal should contact an attorney to enforce their rights.

Source:, “A teen and his service dog fight school policy that conflicts with law,” by Rebecca Everett, 6 January 2017