Service and Companion Animals at Direct-Market Venues

Managing domestic animals in a direct market venue can be very challenging. While best practice is to exclude domestic animals from production and packing areas, produce may be exposed to domestic animals at the point of sale if selling at a produce auction or farmers market. When selling through a direct market venue, growers should take steps to exclude domestic animals from produce. This may mean appropriate signs discouraging or prohibiting pets or a designated area where buyers may tie-up their pets away from the display area.

Service animals present a special case. Service animals are protected by both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Indiana Law. Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that has been individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. The tasks or work the animal does must be directly related to the person’s disability. In some cases, a miniature horse may also qualify as a service animal under the ADA. Both the ADA and Indiana law state that owners of public buildings and businesses cannot deny access to service animals (although service animal owners may be required to pay for any damages caused by their animal).

According to Indiana Law, a service animal is an animal trained as:

  • a guide animal (for example, a guide dog that assists a visually impaired person in navigation and travel)
  • a hearing animal (such as a hearing dog, that alerts its handler to important noises, like the phone, doorbell, or alarm)
  • an assistance animal (including an animal that pulls a wheelchair, pushes an elevator button, or retrieves items)
  • a psychiatric assistance animal (such as an animal that interrupts self-destructive behavior, reminds its handler to take medication, or calms an anxiety attack with soothing pressure)
  • a mobility animal (such as an animal that provides physical support and balance to its handler)
  • a seizure alert animal (an animal that warns its handler of an impending seizure, and may also protect its handler during a seizure), and
  • an autism service animal (which may interrupt self-harming behavior, or initiate calming touch for a handler who is anxious or agitated).

Neither the ADA nor Indiana’s service animal law includes pets or “emotional support animals”. Emotional support animals are those animals that provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to those with psychiatric or emotional disabilities or conditions. Although these animals often have therapeutic benefits, they are not individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers.  Unlike service animals, owners of public buildings and businesses are not required to allow access to emotional support animals.

According to the ADA, if it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. The only two questions that can be asked are:

  1. Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

It is illegal to ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the animal, or ask that the animal demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Local health departments can be a useful resource. Remember that they may also have policies and regulations concerning domestic animals.  Always contact the local health department to determine if additional regulations apply in your area.

Operators of direct market venues such as produce auctions or farmers markets should develop standard operating procedures (SOP’s) that detail how domestic animals are to be managed. The SOP’s should include definitions of domestic and service animals, steps that should be taken to limit interactions between domestic animals and produce, procedures for communicating with owners who bring animals to the market, and a plan for dealing with the occasional excrement left by animals.

Practical steps can also be taken to limit interaction of domestic animals with produce at the market. Displays can be elevated to exclude smaller animals.  Produce can be set back several inches on display tables to limit exposure to larger animals. While these steps may not exclude animals from the area, they will make it more unlikely that animals will contaminate produce.

Growers and market managers who have questions concerning animals at the market should contact Scott Monroe (812-886-0198) or Amanda Deering (765-494-0512) for more information.

References:

ADA Indiana. 2017.  Service Animals and the ADA.  https://www.adaindiana.org/index.php?pageId=71 [Accessed 06/06/17].

NOLO Legal Encyclopedia. 2017.  Indiana Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals.  http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/indiana-laws-on-service-dogs-and-emotional-support-animals.html  [Accessed 06/06/17].

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