KINGSPORT – The Kingsport Police Department wishes to help educate the public on the laws pertaining to guide dogs in the State of Tennessee.‚ Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) 62-7-112, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal to refuse to allow a disabled person to enter an establishment open to the public, or otherwise discriminate against the person, on the basis that the disabled person is being accompanied or led by a guide dog.
The representative of the establishment is further prohibited from asking questions about the persons disability, requiring medical documentation, requiring a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or asking that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
Only two questions may be legally asked of the disabled individual.‚ They include:
1)‚ ‚ Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
2)‚ ‚ What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
A person with a disability can only be asked to remove a service animal from an establishment under one of the following conditions:
1)‚ ‚ The dog is out of control, and the handler does not take effective action to control it.
2)‚ ‚ The dog is not housebroken.
Establishments that sell or prepare bard must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.‚ People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from or treated less favorably than other patrons, or charged fees that are not charged to other patrons without animals.‚ Furthermore, if a business such as a hotel requires a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets, it must waive the charge for service animals.
This law also applies to guide dogs in training with a few additional requirements including:
1)‚ ‚ The guide dog trainer must be prepared to present credentials issued by an accredited school for training guide dogs.
2)‚ ‚ The guide dog in training must wear a collar, leash, or other appropriate apparel or device that identifies the dog with the accredited school for which it is being raised.
A violation of TCA 62-7-112 is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a $50 fine.‚ Additional penalties may be imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice which enforces the ADA at the federal level.
Service animals are defined by the ADA as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.‚ Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, etc.
Service animals are working animals, not pets.‚ The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the persons disability.‚ Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.‚ Finally, while this law primarily applies to dogs, the ADA has expanded it, under reasonable stipulations, to include miniature horses trained as service animals as well.