There is an interesting decision out of Springfield, Missouri where federal judge Richard Dorr has ruled that a Bonnet Macaque named Richard is not a “service animal” under the Americans with Disabilities Act and his owner Debby Rose is not disabled.
Rose claimed that she needed Richard to deal with agoraphobia and anxiety disorder. Notably, Rose claimed that Richard was registered as a service animal and was “surgically altered” for that purpose:
Plaintiff claims the monkey received at least some training prior to when she acquired him, and also claims he was surgically altered as part of this “training” to reduce his aggressive Case 6:08-cv-03292-RED Document 140 Filed 10/21/09 Page 3 of 17 tendencies. Though Plaintiff alleges he received some training, she offers no examples of training specifically related to her disability prior to when she acquired him. After Plaintiff acquired the monkey, she was the only person to train it. Plaintiff claims the monkey performs various tasks related to her disability such as “break[ing] the spell,” “break[ing] off the focus,” “crowd control,” “chang[ing] the mood,” “designat[ing] when [she] ha[s] a change in [her] heart rate or blood pressure,” and “keep[ing] control of what [she’s] doing.”3 Plaintiff’s physician stated that the primary task the monkey performs for Plaintiff is that it “sits with” her to comfort her.
Notably, the court acknowledges that the definition of a service animal is pretty vague:
ADA statutes and regulations discuss the benefit of access with a service animal in terms of “modif[ications]” to policies and procedures. See 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(1); 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(7). While the regulation specifically addressing service animals discusses a “public accommodation” making the modification to ADA statutes and regulations discuss the benefit of access with a service animal in terms of “modif[ications]” to policies and procedures. See 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(1); 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(7). . . .
Under the ADA, “service animal” means “any guide dog, Case 6:08-cv-03292-RED Document 140 Filed 10/21/09 Page 11 of 17 signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.” 28 C.F.R. § 36.104. There are no requirements as to the amount or type of training that a service animal must undergo, nor the type of work or assistance that a service animal must provide, but the animal be trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a disabled individual. Access Now, Inc. v. Town of Jasper, Tenn., 268 F. Supp. 2d 973, 980 (E.D. Tenn. 2003).
However, the health department and Walmart said that she could not bring the animal into restaurants and other locations. Dorr agreed and said that Richard’s presence in food locations violated health codes.
Door ruled that “[t]he vast majority of these “tasks” involve nothing more than the monkey providing comfort. An animal that simply provides comfort or reassurance is equivalent to a household pet.”
He further noted that, while Rose claimed to have suffered from these conditions since the 1970s, she was married three times, had children and worked at a variety of jobs and was not diagnosed until 2006.
This, however, means that we will not see the case where an agoraphobic person with a monkey service animal is confronted by a person with a monkey phobia.
For the opinion, click DO1450041022
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