The Importance of Establishing Assistance Animal Policies for Your Library

Maureen Rust, Mary Wise


Many library employees do not understand fully the laws and rules regarding service animals and the rights of persons with disabilities who work with service animals. Employees do not necessarily know the differences between service animals, therapy animals, and emotional support animals. It is im-portant for employees of all public accommodations, such as libraries, to understand the differences and the rules that govern each category of animal, and when and if each category is allowed into the library. Employees need to know how to accommodate persons with disabilities and what questions they can ask legally, if they have reason to believe an animal in the library is not a service animal. It is also important for libraries to develop clear policies regarding animals in the library that adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal and state rules. Ultimately, there is no easy answer, but employees who know the laws, and libraries that have clear animal policies, are more like-ly to be successful adhering to the ADA and ensuring equal access for patrons with disabilities. This paper will review the distinction between service animals, therapy animals, and emotional support ani-mals. It will delineate the federal, state, and local regulations that affect academic library animal poli-cy. It will examine how individual academic libraries are currently addressing the issue. The authors also make recommendations on best practices for effectively creating and enforcing such policies. One case study highlights an instance in which university policy is being revised to meet current regulations while simultaneously providing for specific programming involving non-service dogs.


Service animals, assistance animals, therapy animals, emotional support animals, ADA requirements, library policies

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