BOISE - It’s not unusual to see people bringing their dogs just about anywhere around town. And while some places are canine friendly, many businesses and restaurants are not, unless you have a registered service dog.
One woman has been working for over a year to better define what actually constitutes as a service dog. Her bill is scheduled for public testimony at the Statehouse Thursday afternoon.
Cheryl Bloom has multiple sclerosis or MS. She describes her disability as an invisible one, and one that is currently not a valid reason for having a service dog under Idaho law.
It’s one of several elements or what she calls flaws with the current code she wants to change.
“I have PTSD, so it’s an invisible disability,” said Andrea Scott.
Andrea Scott has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Under current Idaho code these two women don’t qualify for a service animal.
In fact, only visual, hearing and mobility disabilities fall under qualifications for having a dog in a restaurant or business that is not pet friendly.
“So mental health disabilities, psychiatric disabilities are not covered under Idaho code and that's the issue we have,” said Bloom.
Bloom's bill would change that and would include all disabilities listed under the Americans with Disabilities Act as valid reasons for having a service dog.
It would also allow owner-trained puppies to be allowed in public places while training.
“People who want to owner-train their own dogs are not able to take their dogs out into places of public accommodation or restaurants for training purposes,” said Bloom.
“One is to have your dog professionally trained by a service dog trainer, which cost anywhere from $25,000 to $45,000. There are some organizations that offer free service dogs and the waitlist can be two to seven years,” said Scott.
Bloom's legislation would also eliminate emotional support dogs from being included in the service dog definition.
“It’s not a task-trained dog to mitigate the handler’s disability,” said Scott.
The bill would not discriminate against emotional support dogs in cases of housing or flying on a plane.
“It compromises the integrity of those of us who actually need service dogs,” said Bloom.
Emotional support animal advocates argue that these dogs can provide a sense of safety and comfort for an owner in a place that’s not dog friendly. But Bloom says these dogs should just be considered pets because they don’t provide a service.
Public testimony will be heard on the bill at 3 p.m. Thursday in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.