Service Animal Policy
It is important that staff understand the distinction between service animals (as defined in the ADA) and service animals-in-training, animals participating in animal-assisted therapy programs that serve general populations, or visiting pets. Only individuals with disabilities, whose service animals are individually trained to perform specific tasks for them, are protected by the ADA. Different restrictions may be placed on service animals-in-training, animals participating in animal-assisted therapy programs, or visiting pets, than may be placed on service animals. This policy addresses only service animals.
While the ADA does not extend protections to service animal trainers working with service animals-in-training, some state or local laws do. Check state/local law if there is a question about a trainer entering the facility with a service animal-in-training.
The following guidelines will assist in providing a safe environment for staff, visitors, patients, and service animals.
- Many service animals wear identifying equipment, but some do not. When it is unclear whether an animal entering the facility is a service animal, staff may inquire: 1.) whether the individual needs the animal because of a disability, and 2.) what task the animal has been trained to perform. Where the individual indicates that he/she is using the animal because of a disability and the animal has been trained to perform some task, no further inquiries should be made. Staff should not inquire as to the nature of the individual’s disability; neither can documentation or certification be required to substantiate either the individual’s disability or the animal’s training.
- Martin General Hospital need not allow the presence of a service animal where a fundamental alteration would result. A fundamental alteration is a modification so significant that the essential nature of services, programs, or goods is altered.
- Martin General Hospital requires that a service animal not jeopardize the safe operation of programs and services or pose a direct threat to the health or safety of people. A direct threat is a significant risk to health or safety that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices, or procedures. In determining whether an animal poses a direct threat to health or safety, an individualized assessment must be made, based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or on the best available objective evidence, to ascertain: the nature, duration, and severity of the risk; the probability that potential injury will actually occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures will mitigate the risk. Determination that an animal poses a direct threat must not be based on fears or speculation. Typical allergic reactions to dogs or other animals generally do not constitute a direct threat. Where animals pose a direct threat only due to the nature of a certain area (e.g. an operating room, labor/delivery room, or sterile processing area) or while a specific set of circumstances exists, the animal may be excluded only from that area, or only for so long as the relevant circumstances exist.
- Staff or visitors who have fears or allergies triggered by the animal’s presence should avoid proximity or contact with the animal. Staff should make reasonable efforts to facilitate separation of such individuals from areas where the animal is present.
- Martin General Hospital requires that a service animal be under the control of its human partner (the individual with a disability) at all times. When a human partner fails to maintain control over his/her service animal (e.g. the animal running around, barking incessantly, behaving in a threatening manner), staff may require that the animal be removed from the premises. The human partner must still be allowed to access goods and services without his/her service animal present.
- If a service animal displays disruptive or threatening behavior on repeated occasions, staff may insist that the animal not return to the facility unless appropriate steps are taken to mitigate the behavior. Mitigation may include muzzling, leashing, or the animal and/or human partner attending additional training.
- Supervision and care of a service animal, including proper clean-up and disposal of the animal’s waste, is the responsibility of its human partner, not Martin General Hospital. When a service animal’s human partner is unable, due to his/her disability and/or health condition, to provide adequate care and supervision, staff may use discretion in providing assistance. When staff is unable to provide adequate assistance, or the individual’s incapacity continues beyond a reasonably brief period, the individual must make arrangements for a substitute to provide the necessary care and supervision of the animal.
- When a service animal’s human partner will be entering an area where the animal must be excluded for a planned procedure, surgery, visit, etc., the human partner must make his/her own advance arrangements for the animal’s care and supervision during the time of separation.
- When a service animal must be separated from its human partner due to unforeseen circumstances, staff may make reasonable efforts to contact a substitute (family member, friend, etc.) to provide temporary care and supervision for the service animal. If such a substitute cannot be located within a reasonable time, staff may contact the local animal protective service to provide temporary care and supervision for the service animal.
- Staff should refrain from patting, feeding, or otherwise interacting with a service animal without the express permission of its human partner. Service animals are working animals and should not be distracted from their duties.
- When a service animal will remain in the facility for an overnight stay with a patient with a disability, a sign should be placed on the patient room door, to alert staff and/or visitors to the service animal’s presence.