Thursday, February 1, 2018

“Can I bring my peacock to work? It’s for emotional support”

United Airlines has blocked a customer from bringing her “emotional support peacock” on a recent flight.

Truth be told, whether it was a large peacock, or a small parakeet, or a dog, or any other animal labeled “emotional support,” the airline acted well within its rights, whether dealing with a customer or an employee.

The ADA makes no reasonable accommodation allowance for “emotional support animals” of any species and of any size. Period.

The ADA makes a clear distinction between “service animals” (some of which an employer must consider accommodating) and “emotional support animals” (none of which must be accommodated).
A service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. … 
Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under … the ADA. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals either. … It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal.

In what circumstances must an employer consider allowing a service animal as an accommodation? When the work or tasks performed by the service animal is directly related to the individual’s disability. Examples include:
  • Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks.
  • Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds.
  • Providing non-violent protection or rescue work.
  • Pulling a wheelchair.
  • Assisting an individual during a seizure.
  • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens.
  • Alerting a diabetic to irregular blood-sugar levels.
  • Sensing that an anxiety attack is about to happen and taking a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact.
  • Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone.
  • Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities.
  • Helping individuals with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

Only two species can ever qualify as service animals under the ADA—dogs and miniature horses. That’s it. Any other animal, even if trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, is not a animal for which the ADA requires the consideration of an accommodation.

So, to answer the question, “Can I bring my peacock to work?”

“Yes, I do, and no, you may not.”

If it’s a service dog (or miniature horse), however, and the employee asking is disabled, you must engage in the interactive process with the employee, and consider granting the request as an accommodation.

For more on pets at work, I suggest the following from the archives: