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Service Dogs in the Workplace Guidelines

September 12, 2019 Legal Team

Many people recognize “Guide” dogs, who assist the visually impaired and may even have seen other “Service” dogs that assist persons with various disabilities, but recent California regulations pave the way for many more furry and feathered friends to assist their disabled owners in the workplace.

The new guidance on disability accommodations in the workplace specifies that allowing an “Assistive animal” to accompany a disabled employee may be a reasonable accommodation that an employer needs to consider.  Specific cases include guide dogs, signal dogs, service dogs, and a new category: “‘Support’ dog[s] or other animals [s] that provide[] emotional or other support to a person with a disability.”  The regulations go on to point out that a support animal may be a reasonable accommodation for a person with major depression or similar mental disabilities.

Notably, the regulations make no restrictions on what kind of animals can be support animals, so long as the animals are free from offensive odors, have acceptable bathroom habits, do not endanger anyone’s safety, and are trained to provide the required assistance.  Known assistive animals have already included monkeys, trained parrots, and miniature horses; now, if your pet turtle, cat, or snake can be trained to provide you emotional support, it could well join you in the workplace.