What qualifies as a service dog? Do you need official documentation? We have the answers

Updated: 09/02/2014 5:29 PM
Created: 09/02/2014 4:38 PM WHEC.com
By: Jennifer Mobilia

We have a follow-up to a story that has a lot of people talking on social media. A woman claims she was asked to leave a Starbucks in Brighton after bringing her service dog inside.

After our story aired Monday night, a lot of you wanted to know what exactly qualifies as a service dog and do you need official documentation to be allowed inside places like Starbucks? Today, we got those answers.
Amy Kaplan says she was kicked out of Starbucks in Brighton because of her service dog, Zero. She recorded the incident on her cell phone. See our original report

Kaplan suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2012 after the ambulance she was working in as a paramedic was involved in a crash with a bus. She says she now suffers from severe anxiety. Officials from the Center for Disability Rights say the Starbucks employee who allegedly asked Kaplan to leave was wrong and should not have kicked her out because of her service dog.  

We asked David Sutliff-Atias, the Assistant Director of Advocacy at the Center for Disability Rights, if a person has to have any documentation that their dog is a service dog. Sutliff-Atias said, “No, and that goes back to we would rather have a few people get away with something than have someone with a real disability, who legitimately needs that service animal, to go without?”

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), anyone with a disability is allowed to bring their service animal into a business and into areas where customers are generally allowed. That includes restaurants. In addition, service dogs are not required to wear any special vest or anything that would indicate that it's a service dog.  

Sutliff-Atias said, “The only thing you're allowed to ask is if you have a disability, not what your disability is, but if you have a disability and what tasks does the dog do for you. That's it.”

Advocates warn not all disabilities are noticeable. Sutliff-Atias said, “The definition would go by the ADA and if I understand correctly, it has to do with any condition that affects your daily living.”

On Monday, Starbucks said it was going to issue an apology to Kaplan. We spoke with Kaplan earlier today and she says Starbucks has not yet contacted her.

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