News for the Hospitality Executive
Updating Service Animal Policies of Your Hotel or Other 'Place of Lodging'
By Jim Butler, Martin Orlick and David Sudeck of the Global Hospitality Group®
Author of www.HotelLawBlog.com
October 5, 2011
ADA Defense Lawyers . What are some of the most common questions asked of our ADA Defense Lawyers? Many of them relate to "service animal" policies at hotels, restaurants and other places of public accommodation. One of the most read articles on Hotel Law Blog was a posting I did 5 years ago on this subject. Who's crying "Woof"? What you must know about the ADA requirements for disabled guests and their service animals . . .
But with recent developments, we thought it was time to update that information with the effect of the latest amendments to the regulations on this subject published by the Department of Justice implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
thanks to hotel lawyers David Sudeck and Marty Orlick for their help on
Service animal policies for your hotelThe Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010. Certain of these amendments became effective as of March 15, 2011, including revisions to the provisions of the ADA governing service animals.
or other place of "public accomodation"
Jim Butler, Martin Orlick, and David Sudeck | Hotel Lawyers
Relating to Service Animals
and Miniature Horses as Service Animals
In addition to the provisions about dogs as service animals, the revised ADA regulations now have a provision about miniature horses (which generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds) that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Entities covered by the ADA must now also modify their policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable. The revised regulations provide for the weighing of certain factors to determine if miniature horses can be accommodated in a facility: "(1) whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (2) whether the miniature horse is under the owner's control; (3) whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse's type, size, and weight; and (4) whether the miniature horse's presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility."
Impermissable exclusion of a service animal or other inappropriate action is a violation of the ADA, which applies in all 50 states and to all types of public accommodations, including all "places of lodging." The definitions of these properties was expanded as of March 15, 2011 to cover many timeshare and other vacation ownership properties and also includes most hotels, motels, inns, restaurants, sports facilities, stadiums, wineries, retail stores, apartment houses and senior living facilities. Improper application of the ADA can put you in a court defending an expensive lawsuit. Note however, that compliance with federal law does not mean that you are free of liability; state and local laws may differ from the ADA, and these accessibility laws may still prohibit a public accommodation from restricting access to animals that are not considered "service animals" under the ADA.
Relating to Service Animals
A business may ask only if an animal is a service animal and what tasks the animal has been trained to perform. It is not permissible to require a special ID card or certification for the animal or any proof of the person's disability. Furthermore, disabled persons cannot be charged extra fees or deposits based on the presence of the service animal (even if such a fee is generally charged for pets), including any clean-up charges (unless due to damages caused by the animal).
Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless such restraints 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 service animal through voice or other controls. The owner/handler of a service animal is responsible for controlling the service animal and paying to repair any damage caused by the service animal. If the animal does become unreasonably disruptive or threatening, the owner is responsible for controlling it. If it cannot be controlled, the animal may be excluded, but the guest should be welcome to stay without the animal. Courts have made it clear that unless a service animal is disruptive (in a manner unrelated to its service function) or dangerous, it may not be removed or excluded. In any event, most service animals are particularly trained to be around people and are not dangerous.
The property owner and operator are not required to provide special services for service animals like food, water, doggy bags, leashes, or to clean a service animal's "accidents." However, the legislative history of the ADA indicates that if the staff cleans the rooms generally and puts guests' items away, then the staff should do the same with the animal's accoutrements.
Establishing Legal Policies is Critical
There were a host of other changes in the 2010 amendments to the ADA (some of which became effective on March 15, 2011 and some of which will become effective on March 15, 2012). Contact us to learn more or to have us prepare a written policy for your property with respect to service animals.
My colleagues and fellow members of the Global Hospitality Group®, Marty Orlick and David Sudeck recently led a Lorman webinar on the 2010 amendments to the Americans With Disabilities Act. You can access it on demand at:
This is Jim Butler, author of www.HotelLawBlog.com and hotel lawyer, signing off. We've done more than $60 billion of hotel transactions and have developed innovative solutions to help investors be successful in bidding for hotel acquisitions, and helping investors and lenders to unlock value from troubled hotel transactions. Who's your hotel lawyer?
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The hotel lawyers in the Global Hospitality Group® of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell (JMBM) comprise the premier hospitality practice in a full-service law firm and are the authors of the Hotel Law Blog. We represent hotel owners, developers, investors and lenders and have helped our clients find business and legal solutions for more than $60 billion of hotel transactions, involving more than 1,000 properties worldwide. For more information about the Global Hospitality Group®, go to www.HotelLawBlog.com. For more information about full range of legal services provided by JMBM, go to www.JMBM.com.
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