Discrimination Law Going to the Dogs?

Chihuahua.jpg

I, too, saw the NYT story on animals and the ADA. Despite puns aplenty in both the story and in Jason’s (excellent) post directly below, I was initially hesitant to give this more press than it had already received. That’s because I hate to see the ADA – an important piece of civil rights legislation – seen as a law that leads to ridiculous results.

Perhaps all is well until the non-disabled see a loophole in the law and try to exploit it. After all, the law makes sense as a public accommodation when applied to seeing-eye-dogs and other dogs that are “working animals,” but becomes ridiculous when Biff / Buffy tries to insist on the “right” to smuggle his / her boston terrier / chihuahua into a restaurant to avoid eating alone.

So how do we define that “ridiculous” line without throwing the bichon out with the bathwater? The NYT article quoted trainers who work with seeing-eye-dogs or other working dogs; they might help provide a line. As for the idea that no-pet rules in buildings should be waived for the depressed or anxious, I am more skeptical. In this instance, I think the market would take care of the problem. There are buildings where pets are allowed. They may be more expensive, but that presumably internalizes the price of having an animal that could potentially cause damage to the apartment / property.

In any event, all this talk of animals is inspiring. The next two posts from me will carry a dog theme.

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1 Response

  1. Frank says:

    I’m very sympathetic with the pet owners described in the article. If we’re really going to put mental health needs on a parity with physical health needs, shouldn’t these pets be recognized as therapy and reasonably accommodated?

    Japanese researchers have had a lot of success helping the elderly by providing them with robotic (but furry) seal pups that emit cooing sounds:

    http://www.temple.edu/ispr/examples/ex03_12_05.html

    I know the animals may have externalities–barking, etc. But if there’s strict enforcement of rules against those types of disturbances, they should be allowed. As for the market solution: in many urban housing markets, it’s a seller’s market. (Vacancies in Manhattan are about 1% now, I think.)