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Health Department Tells Woman To Prove Her Monkey Is Service Animal

SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI--Does the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act protect a person's right to have an untrained pet that helps the owner deal with a mental illness?

Debby Rose thinks so. She says her bonnet macaque monkey Richard helps her with her anxiety symptoms so she can get out of the house and enjoy things like grocery shopping and dining out.

Until recently, officials with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department agreed with Rose. But then they received complaints from customers at one buffet style restaurant, claiming that Rose let Richard eat off restaurant dishes and visit the food bar.

A health inspector told the News-Leader that she phoned an ADA hotline and was informed that the monkey could only be covered as a service animal if it is trained to perform a specific task, such as picking up keys that have been dropped.

On September 5, the department sent a letter to Springfield-area food establishments, telling them they could not allow Rose's monkey inside. In fact, restaurants could be cited for violating the 1999 Missouri Food Code if they let Richard in, it read.

Health Department officials met Friday with the Southwest Center for Independent Living, which is representing Rose, who denies that her monkey was out of line at the restaurant. Kevin Gipson, director of health, reportedly said Rose must provide some kind of federal ruling or certification proving that the monkey is a service animal before health officials would allow her to take it into public eating establishments.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Justice told the newspaper that the ADA is rather vague when it comes to emotional support animals, but that the law still does cover them.

Other cases have made the news in recent years regarding different kinds of animals that help people with all sorts of disabilities.

Last month, for example, an Ohio judge ruled that 13-year-old David Valentine could keep and raise two goats as a reasonable accommodation for his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The Miami Township Zoning Board had tried to disallow the goats that do not perform specific tasks, nor are they certified as service animals.

Copyright 2006 Inonit Publishing
Article reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express international disability rights news service. Please do not reprint, republish or forward without permission.

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