“You cannot share your life with a dog, as I had done in Bournemouth, or a cat, and not know perfectly well that animals have personalities and minds and feelings.” — Jane Goodall

Are you losing your sight or hearing? Are you physically limited with daily activities? Do you suffer from a seizure disorder? If you answered yes to any of these then you could benefit by having a service dog. The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service dog as one that has been trained to work and/or perform tasks for an individual with disabilities.

Service dogs are used by people with disabilities. People who are blind or vision-impaired may need the dog to lead them through daily activities. A person who is hearing-impaired or deaf may use a service dog to alert them to an alarm or when the phone or doorbell rings. Some service dogs are used to pull people confined to a wheelchair. They are used to detect a seizure before it happens or they will protect their owner as it's happening.

Dogs that are registered as a service dog are different than “therapy animals” and “emotional support” animals. Only service dogs are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Emotional support animals are only covered under the Fair Housing Act, allowing them in housing units. Service dogs are also allowed under this act, meaning a landlord cannot stop you from having the animal in your home. The Air Carrier Access Act covers both service dogs and emotional support animals, along with therapy animals, permitting them on planes.

Columbus recognizes service dogs within our community. These dogs qualify for a yearly license per city ordinance. We recognize most support animals and therapy animals, but they have to be an allowed species. Miniature horses, for example, cannot be used as a support or therapy pet as there has to be proper zoning and sheltering for them, which leaves only a few locations within the city limits where they can be kept.

When a service dog is working with its owner, there is a no-touching policy. The dogs normally wear a vest advising that it is working. Anyone who intentionally injures, harasses or threatens a service dog is in violation of city ordinance. Any violence or interference with a service dog is punishable with fines up to $500.

More information can be obtained at www.ada.gov, www.adata.org and www.neoc.ne.gov/laws/laws.html.

Columbus Animal Control Lead Officer Shawn Flowers can be reached at sflowers@columbusne.us or 402-564-8839.