We live in a very pet friendly area in a pet-friendly state so there are dogs just about everywhere. We feel it is worthwhile to share some information and observations on pets, people and business.
One major area that ought to concern any business is the issue of service dogs – or service animals generally. Washington Law bans animals from some establishments and, of course, business owners may ban animals whether they are food establishments or not. Service animals are a different story. A service animal is allowed virtually everywhere. Washington’s RCW 70.84 – the “White Cane Law” – states, in part:
“The blind, the visually handicapped, the hearing impaired, and the otherwise physically disabled are entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges on common carriers, airplanes, motor vehicles, railroad trains, motor buses, street cars, boats, and all other public conveyances, as well as in hotels, lodging places, places of public resort, accommodation, assemblage or amusement, and all other places to which the general public is invited, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons.”
Interfering with these rights is a misdemeanor offense.
There are procedures for getting animals trained and certified as service animals and many people have either a special vest or other indication, but there is no requirement that an animal be certified or registered and while a business owner may ask if it is a trained service animal, they cannot ask about any disability nor seek proof of training.
If an animal appears disruptive or dangerous, it can be barred from a place of business. There is some good news for a business owner who has misgivings about allowing an animal in a confined space with other customers- particularly as that might impact their Washington Commercial Liability insurance. Washington State has a law that places the responsibility for animal behavior squarely on the owner or person in control of the animal. So, if somebody’s prize Pekinese decides to nip a toddler while on your premises, it should be their liability policy that provides the coverage.
In 2011 Washington passed House Bill 1728 which adjusted the definition of service animals to include miniature horses. This was done to bring state law into conformance with national Americans With Disability Act (ADA) practice. While we likely will not see a herd of miniature service horses wandering through Port Townsend or Sequim, it is important to know that horses and dogs can be legitimate trained service animals. Of course we could be in big trouble if the decide to define our Elk in as well.
For those who need more information, the state has an FAQ page on service animals. You can find it here.