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Understanding Your Legal Options if You Are Injured By a Service Animal

Understanding Your Legal Options if You Are Injured By a Service Animal

Nevada law grants certain rights to people with service animals

Nevada law defines “service animal” to include dogs and miniature horses that have “been trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.” NRS 426.097. The applicable definition under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is similar, though it is limited to dogs. 28 CFR §36.104.

The definition of “disability” is quite broad, including “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the person . . . a record of such an impairment . . . or being regarded as having such an impairment.” 28 CFR §36.105, NRS 426.068. The definition of disability is broad enough to encompass psychological conditions like severe depression or anxiety, provided that they meet the definition’s impact test.

Under both Nevada law and the ADA, people who use service animals have the right to take their animals into “places of public accommodation,” another term with a broad definition. The ADA defines to include hotels, restaurants, movie theaters and other entertainment venues, libraries, schools, and gyms. See 28 CFR §36.104 for the complete definition.

Owners and operators of covered places are required to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, including allowing them to bring service animals onto the premises. They may ask what jobs the animal performs, but they may not ask a service animal’s handler to identify his or her disability, ask for evidence of disabled status, or demand proof that the animal has been trained. However, an establishment can refuse to allow a dangerous animal on the premises if, for example, the animal is behaving aggressively toward other patrons. Animals that aren’t under adequate control can also be removed.

Note that to qualify as a service animal, and therefore receive the rights associated with that designation, a dog must have received special training to assist a person with specific tasks associated with a disability. This distinguishes service animals from therapy animals. Although therapy animals provide emotional benefits, they don’t satisfy the task requirement. This means that a therapy animal can be lawfully excluded from places of public accommodation, though landlords cannot discriminate against therapy animals any more than they can against service animals, even if they have a policy against pets.

Legal options when a service animal bites

In most ways, a service animal bite injury falls within the same framework as one committed by an ordinary pet. In Nevada, dog bites fall within the general legal theory of negligence. Harry v. Smith, 893 P.2d 372, 375 (Nev. 1995). The injured plaintiff must show that the person responsible for the animal failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the injury, and as a result of that failure the plaintiff was injured.

What may distinguish a service animal bite case from ordinary bite cases is the context where a bite occurs. Because service animals are allowed into places where animals normally aren’t permitted, the scope of potentially negligent defendants can be different. For example, although a restaurant is required to allow patrons to be accompanied by service animals, if it does not exercise its right to have an aggressive animal removed it may contribute to the resulting injury.

Consult with an experienced dog bite attorney

Recovering from an animal bite can be painful, slow, and expensive, especially if it requires taking time off work. Many bite victims need psychological counseling along with their physical treatment. Consulting with an injury lawyer as soon as possible after the incident is essential for preserving legal options. The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have extensive experience with animal bite litigation in Las Vegas. For a free consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.