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Federal vs. State Service Animal Laws

EUGENE, Ore. — A Eugene man named Dharzel claimed he was kicked out of WinCo in west Eugene because of his service animal — his bird Sasafras.

Some viewers called KEZI about how this measures up to the service animal laws in the Americans with Disability Act.

Several people called about the recent changes to the ADA that went into effect last March.

The new law states a service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.

That is the federal law, which experts say is the minimum states have to abide by.

Oregon’s service animal criteria is much broader.

The state’s law defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal — individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.

Barney Flemming at the Northwest ADA Center says technically the law could apply to a bird if the person is truly disabled and the bird is trained to perform a task.

In Dharzel’s case, he says the bird assists him in managing his behavior — not the most common service animal task — but one that could apply.

“A lot of people have a hard time trying to understand how an animal could be trained to do something like that, but that’s not the issue and he doesn’t have to demonstrate it. All he has to do is convince you. He has to be credible. So, if a person provides a credible answer and they have a disability and the animal is trained, then the person at the grocery store kind of judge and jury,” Flemming said.

Now, since WinCo couldn’t comment on the situation, we do not know exactly what the exchange was between Dharzel and store managers.

We also are not in any place to validate Dharzel’s disability or his need for a service animal.

The federal dog-only law, which sometimes applies to miniature horses, is considered the minimum when it comes to service animals.

According to the ADA, states and stores are allowed to have their own rules that allow more animals than just dogs if they so choose.

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