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Letters to the Editor


Phyllis  (Auburn, Alabama)

I absolutely LOVE this magazine. I take my dog with us on ALL vacations. Just one little favor, could you put up a printable version of the September issue? Thanks!



SANDY  (MEDFORD, Massachusetts)

Iwant to say that I love you Dogfriendly magazine.I look forward to it always. Keep up the good work Thanks


Kyle  (Boulder, Colorado)

On July 10, my service dog Max and I became the first service dog team to climb Long's Peak (14,255 ft. in Rocky Mountain National Park) to raise awareness of service dog issues and push for greater access in the national park system for disabled persons who use service animals (which until now only allowed hearing and guide dogs). As a result of further discussions, letters, meetings, and other work, the national park service has now revised its regulations and all service dogs now must be permitted to the parks with their disabled handlers. 

September 5, 2002MemorandumTo: Associate Directors, Regional Directors and SuperintendentsFrom: Director /s/ Fran P. MainellaSubject: Use of Service Animals by Persons with Disabilities in theNational Park SystemThe purpose of this memorandum is to provide updated informationregarding the use of service animals by persons with disabilities inthe National Park System; to inform you of the intent to revise ourcurrent regulations regarding their use; and to provide interimguidance on what we as an agency must do in order to comply withDepartment of Justice (DOJ) guidelines and regulations and Section 504of the Rehabilitation Act. This information will be incorporated intoDirector's Order #42 when it is updated.BackgroundService animals for persons with disabilities have traditionally beenunderstood to be guide dogs for blind individuals and hearingassistance dogs for persons with hearing impairments. Because theseanimals provide service for persons with disabilities, they are notconsidered to be pets and, consequently, are not regulated as pets.Accordingly, they have been allowed to go into areas where pets aretraditionally prohibited. National Park Service (NPS) regulationscodified at 36 CFR 2.15 currently recognize that "guide dogs for theBlind" and "signal dogs for persons with hearing impairments"are exempt from other prohibitions on pets.In 1990, with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA), DOJ expanded the concept of service animals to include thoseproviding a service for individuals with other disabilities. Serviceanimals are defined in 28 CFR 36.104 as, "any guide dog, signal dog,or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks forthe benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but notlimited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alertingindividuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providingminimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetchingdropped items." Section 36.302 states that entities, "shallmodify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of aservice animal by an individual with a disability."Section 36.104 also defines an individual with a disability as anindividual with a physical or mental impairment that substantiallylimits one or more of the major life activities of caring for one'sself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking,breathing, learning, and working.Over the past several months a number of parks have received requestsfrom the public to use service animals and the parks have raisedquestions about what types of service animals must be allowed. Therehas been some confusion for the parks because our current regulationsrecognize only guide dogs for individuals with visual impairments andsignal dogs for those with hearing impairments. There have also beensome increased concerns voiced regarding the potential threat towildlife management with the allowance of service animals into areaswhere pets are prohibited.NPS PositionAfter careful review of the issues related to the use of serviceanimals in the national parks, and based on the advice provided by theSolicitor's Office, we conclude that we are legally required bySection 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to allow all types of serviceanimals into the parks. The NPS will revise the regulations to adopta broader interpretation of what a service animal is, and whereservice animals should be allowed. The NPS will use the samedefinition of service animal currently found in DOJ regulations (28CFR36.104). Service animals will not be considered pets and, ingeneral, when accompanying a person with a disability (as defined byFederal law and DOJ regulations), must be allowed wherever visitors oremployees are allowed.Due to the concern for wildlife management issues, the regulation willallow superintendents to close an area to the use of service animalsif it is determined that the service animal poses a direct threat tothe health or safety of people or wildlife. The regulation will alsostate that, in determining whether a service animal poses a directthreat, the superintendent must make an individualized assessmentbased on current scientific knowledge or on the best availableobjective evidence to ascertain the nature, duration and severity ofthe risk and the probability that the potential threat will actuallyoccur; and provide an explanation why less restrictive measures willnot suffice. We expect to have the proposed rule published in theFederal Register for public review and comment by fall of this year.Interim GuidanceBecause it will take some time for the new regulation to become final,we are using this memorandum to provide guidance on what we need to doimmediately in order to comply with the ADA, DOJ guidelines andregulations, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.We have been advised by legal counsel that Congress has stated thattheir intent is that the coverage of the ADA, (which covers State andlocal governments and private entities) and Section 504 (which coversFederal agencies) should be essentially the same. The Department'sregulations implementing and interpreting Section 504 are found at 43CRF 17. Consequently, our current regulation (36 CFR 2.15), whichrecognizes only guide dogs for the blind and signal dogs for thehearing impaired, is unenforceable against persons with disabilitieswho rely upon service animals for other purposes. Therefore, all parkunits must immediately expand the definition of service animals to beconsistent with the DOJ definition and allow all service animalsaccompanying persons with disabilities the same privileges currentlyprovided to guide dogs and hearing assistance dogs.Some park staff have raised questions regarding how they can beassured that the individual with a service animal is a qualifiedperson with a disability and that the animal is indeed providing aservice because of that disability. According to DOJ guidance, inmost instances we cannot require individuals to show proof ofdisability nor to show official certification for their serviceanimal. Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars andharnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and haveidentification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is aservice animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is aservice animal required because of a disability. However, anindividual with a disability is not likely to be carryingdocumentation of his or her medical condition or disability, and suchdocumentation may not be required as a condition for allowing them inthe park. DOJ has also stated that, although a number of States haveprograms to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof ofState certification before permitting the service animal to accompanythe person with a disability.In some very limited situations the NPS may require additionalprocedures to verify that the animal is providing a service for aqualified person with a disability. The NPS already utilizes aprocedure to determine if an individual is a qualified individual witha disability for purposes of receiving a Golden Access Passport. Thatprocedure requires either written documentation of a disability or thesigning of a statement attesting to having a disability as defined byFederal law. A similar procedure could be utilized with regard toservice animals in cases where a superintendent believes it isnecessary.According to DOJ guidance, and as discussed above, a superintendentmay close an area to all service animals upon an individualizedassessment and a written determination that allowance of any domesticanimal would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of peopleor wildlife. This determination must also follow the requirements of36 CFR 1.5/1.7. However, the legal burden is on the superintendentto justify closing an area of the park to service animals accompanyingpersons with disabilities.We ask each superintendent to ensure that all staff that interact withthe public, including our concessions staff, be informed of thisdecision and take whatever steps are necessary to implement thisaction as quickly as possible. If you have any questions regardingthis issue, you may contact David Park, Accessibility ProgramCoordinator at 202/513-7027, or Kym Hall, Regulations Program Managerat 202/208-4206.






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