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New Jersey lawyer focusing on special education law and employment law

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A Service Dog in the Car Trunk

This is a story that made waves in the service dog and pet lovers community last month: A cab driver in Colorado was called to pick up a blind passenger accompanied by a seeing-eye service dog. The cab driver claimed that he was allergic to dogs and told the passenger to put the dog in the trunk of the car.

See bloggers and readers comment on this story here, there, and way over yonder.

As I have discussed on multiple occasions on this blog, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the right of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service dogs. (The U.S. Department of Justice has a nice summary here.) That being said, however, if a person’s allergy rises to the level of a disability, there seems to be a stalemate: whose rights reign supreme–the blind person or the cab driver? That is a question this story raises.

Taxi cabs in New York City

If the cab driver is severely allergic to dog dander and there is a real potential for a life-threatening asthma attack, that might rise to the level of a disability as that term is defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In situations where a cab driver is severely allergic to dog dander, the driver should make arrangements to call for another cab to assist persons accompanied by their service dogs. But that is not what happened in Colorado. Instead, the cab driver told the visually impaired passenger to put his service dog in the trunk of the car.

Requesting that a service dog be placed in the trunk is not acceptable. The trunk of a car has poor ventilation, which can be dangerous for the dog; it may also rise to the level of animal cruelty, which is a punishable crime in many states.

In the end, the Colorado cab driver had his licensed revoked and was served a fine. But it is hoped that such incidences will not happen again. To avoid such incidences and public embarrassment, cab drivers and cab businesses should carefully review their legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure compliance with the law.

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