What constitutes a ‘service animal?’ I ask because a friend recently told me about a fracas on her bus in Olympia when someone left a boa constrictor on the bus and a former bus driver has told me about struggles he’s had with service animals. Everything from two service dogs on the same bus fighting to a man trying to get on the bus with a snake wrapped around his neck, which freaked the driver out.

Apparently I’m not the only one asking, because the Department of Justice is trying to define service animals and things may become more strict. The DOJ received thousands of comments about service animals last year when it announced plans to modify the definition to exclude wild animals including reptiles, rabbits, farm animals, amphibians, ferrets and rodents. The guidelines also would have eliminated as service animals those whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or to promote emotional well-being.

The existing service animal law has no standards of training, requires no animal identification or certification and doesn’t define what a service animal can be. But if businesses and public agencies fail to accommodate a disabled person’s service animal, they sometimes are sued. The Seattle Times takes a closer look at this law that some people may be abusing.

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