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Service, Support, Therapy Animals in Your Club

Mr. Jones is a client of one of your members, Mrs. Smith, an attorney. Mrs. Smith invites Mr. Jones to lunch at your club to talk over a small business issue that Mr. Jones’ company is facing. Mrs. Smith arrives a few minutes before Mr. Jones and waits on the front porch of your club for her client to arrive. Mr. Jones’ car soon rolls up and Mr. Jones climbs out of the back seat accompanied by a beautiful golden Labrador, who you later find out is named Daisy, Mr. Jones’ service dog. Mr. Jones is blind.

The question that immediately arises is do you permit Daisy to accompany Mr. Jones into your clubhouse and into the dining room where several members of your club are eating lunch? Your club has no policy regarding allowance of animals – dogs or otherwise – into your buildings or onto your course. After conferring with Mrs. Smith, who is well versed in the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), you discover you have no choice but to permit Daisy to do the work she was trained to do and accompany Mr. Jones into the dining area.

Mrs. Smith also offers her assistance to write a policy with respect to pets on your club’s property.

Service, Emotional, and Therapeutic Animals

Animals of many kinds are trained today to address a variety of needs for the owners. As a service animal, for example, Daisy is more than a companion to Mr. Jones; she’s a teammate, a partner to help him attain safety and independence. Daisy isn’t with Mr. Jones to be petted and coddled by others; she’s there to work.

The ADA protects the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals (in most cases, dogs) to places the public is permitted to go.

In addition to service animals, there are emotional service animals and therapeutic animals whose owners feel should be afforded the same privileges as service animals.

Emotional service animals are companions that provide therapeutic benefit to individuals with mental or psychiatric disabilities and are typically dogs or cats but may include other animals. Therapeutic animals provide their handlers with therapeutic contact to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning. Both types of animals help their owners by relieving loneliness, depression, anxiety, and certain phobias.

Because emotional service animals and therapeutic animals are not trained to perform the same functions as a service animal, neither are currently protected by the ADA.

ADA Requirements

Regardless of the type of animal that accompanies its owner, the ADA prohibits a business owner from asking a customer what disability they have that would warrant allowing the customer to bring their animal onto the property. The law does allow you to ask the following questions about the animal itself:

  • Is the animal required because of a disability? and
  • What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

The ADA requires owners to maintain control of their service animals, and animals must be housebroken. If animals lack the discipline of a trained service animal, business operators are permitted to request the animal be taken off the property. And, animal owners may be denied service if they fail to keep their animal under control.

What About Your Club?

Does your club currently have a by-law, policy, or house rule regarding pets on your property? If not, we urge you to visit with your insurance agent or broker who can provide you guidance regarding any liability questions. We also suggest you speak with your legal counsel who should be able to tell you if your particular state has laws on the books that further define level of protection to support animals not covered under the ADA.  

As club owners or managers, we support all individuals with disabilities and encourage our staff to be prepared to meet their special needs. The National Alliance for Accessible Golf offers guidance with a “toolkit” to help you ensure your club is prepared to welcome and serve those with disabilities.

David A. Harnois, CCM is a Proud Employee Owner of Affinity Club Underwriters, specializing in commercial and group program business. David provides insurance solutions for hundreds of clubs and may be reached at (319) 800-6676 or at david.harnois@affinityclubs.com.

ABOUT AFFINITY

Affinity Club Underwriters, a division of VGM Insurance Services, is a wholesale program insurance provider specializing in the club, golf and hospitality sector. They offer claims management services; operations and coverage audits; policy and information storage and archaeology; RFP preparation; market analysis; and help in developing specific loss control programs.

Affinity is the exclusive provider of the Affinity Club Program for private and semi-private Clubs. Affinity is an industry leading insurance program administrator led by Club industry experts.  

 

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