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Emotional Support Dog at the Gym

Theoldguy1Theoldguy1 Member Posts: 1,005 Member Member Posts: 1,005 Member
I was at the gym yesterday. The gym has a large open interior area in the back of the building for sled pushing, carried, walking lunges, floor work etc. It was 5 PM so a decent crowd in the gym. A woman comes into the area with an unleashed dog and starts to run sprints with the dog. The dog runs with her pretty well but occasionally gets distracted and goes over and smells the butt of people doing floor work and gets in the face of someone doing handstand pushups. After running sprints they go to the water fountain where the woman turns on the water and the dog drinks from the handicapped accessible fountain which he can easily reach.

As I was leaving I asked the girl at the front desk and she tells me it's an emotional support dog. Now I love dogs and understand the benefits of emotional support animals but should they be running around off leash and with no service animal vest in a public gym? The front desk girl asked if I wanted to complain. I told her no because I didn't think she would actually tell a manager. I'm planning on writing an email to the manager expressing my concern the dog running loose could actually hurt someone and if it's in the gym should be on a leash at all times.

Am I right or being an *kitten*?


  • DaddieCatDaddieCat Member Posts: 3,674 Member Member Posts: 3,674 Member
    They do have a legal obligation to back up their claim. That said, the gym also has a strong incentive not to force them to back up the claim because that can easily be viewed as discrimination and a litigious person can get an almost guaranteed win under ADA law in most places.

    The people who abuse the service animal programs really ruin it for those that actually have need of a support animal.

    Depends on where you are, I guess. In my state, you can't challenge them and only ask very specific questions to confirm.

    I've never seen that in law. I have seen that most hr policies are designed that way to avoid potential lawsuits.

    All law that I've seen indicates that service animal handlers are required by law to carry the cert and the prescription at all times for proof. I know when I had mine registered that's how it was presented to me and my subsequent reading of the laws that we are bound by in my locality does not preclude anyone asking. That has always been the policy everywhere that I've worked though... only to ask if it was a service dog or other specific questions.
  • aokoyeaokoye Member Posts: 3,497 Member Member Posts: 3,497 Member
    Just an FYI, neither service animals nor emotional support animals need to be certified. There's no national certifying body that involves regulation of this sort of thing. They also aren't required to have any sort of indication stating that they are a service animal. Here's the link to the PDF that the above image was clipped from. There are a number of parts that are relevant to this conversation (really the whole document is) but I'll quote a few.
    Service animals are defined 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, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
    Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
    When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

    So I guess the question is is it an emotional support animal or is it a service animal. Given that emotional disorders can and do fall under the heading of "disability" in many instances as seen in the part of the first quote that I bolded, the question is did the person whose animal it was say that it was a support animal or did they say it was a service dog? Outside of the drinking fountain issue (which...the first words that come to mind are not exactly kind), if the animal is a support dog I think you're just going to have to suck it up and deal.

    With regards to the lack of certification that I mentioned above, here's another PDF from the ADA that talks about this in more detail -
    Q17: Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?
    A: No. Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has
    been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.

    There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.
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