Man’s best friend. But what if your pet goes beyond that and actually helps you manage your mental and/or physical health? Assistive pets are becoming more and more common. As an employer, it is your job to learn what is and is not allowed in the workplace.
Below is what you should know before allowing assistive pets into the office.
There are three major categories of pets that provide aid:
Emotional support animals
Emotional support animals are pets of people with emotional needs. For legal purposes, a person with an emotional support animal must have a letter from a licensed medical health professional stating their need for the animal. This letter ensures the animals are protected by the Fair Housing Authority Act and the Air Carriers Act; therefore, emotional support animals have rights to reasonable housing accommodations and may fly in the cabin of an airplane with their handler. Emotional support animals do not have rights to accompany their handlers to doctor’s appointments or to work.
Service animals are defined as animals who are trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. This applies to all disabilities, whether physical, mental or emotional. As a business owner or manager, there are two questions you may ask a person with an animal you believe to be a service animal: 1. Is this animal a service animal? 2. Are they trained to perform a certain task? Service animals are allowed everywhere their handler is allowed.
Therapy animals do not have access rights like emotional support animals or service animals. They are animals with a positive demeanor who improve morale in places like hospitals, nursing homes and offices. While not protected under the ADA, therapy animals can be extremely beneficial for your employees and/or patients. In several clinical trials by Purdue University, children with autism experienced “statistically significant” improvements in 27 of the 30 outcome measures. In a series of 28 studies by Erike Friedmann and Heesook Son, people experiencing a wide range of conditions such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, developmental disabilities and Down syndrome all reported positive results from therapy animals.