Bill Would Broaden Definition of “Service Dog”
H.B. 1293 would include dogs that perform therapeutic services under the legal definition of “service dog.” The current definition lists specific jobs that dogs can do — acting as a guide dog, a mobility dog, or a couple of others — and the change would grant dogs that perform other therapeutic services the same legal protection. Dogs that volunteers bring with them when they visit patients would still be excluded by the new definition.
This change would improve the law. Dogs are used to treat an increasing number of medical conditions, and confusion over which animals are really service dogs can lead to disputes. This was apparent this past year in Illinois, where an appeals court decided that a boy with autism may bring his dog to school. The school district had argued that the dog was just a pet and not a service dog.
We can’t expect legislators to keep up with every medical advance and to update the definition of “service dog” each time a dog is used in the treatment of another condition. It would be better to have a more general definition, like the one proposed in Missouri’s H.B. 1293.