The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which passed Congress in 1990 has created challenges for associations since its passage. Many far reaching scenarios have been presented to Boards of Directors to allow all types of animals as service animals.
In July of this year, the Department of Justice has released new regulations that clarify the intent of Congress. Although the definition of disability has been greatly broadened, the use of service animals has been greatly limited. Only two animals may now be used as a service animal to assist with a person's disability, specifically the dog and miniature horse.
Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained are not service animals, per the new rule. The main consideration now is the animal's training. It is now clear that a dog's training takes precedence over the owner's disability. Dogs that simply provide companionship and comfort, no longer qualify as a service animal. Legitimate service animals are exempt from association pet restrictions.
Examples of tasks that qualify as service are now available and include: guiding the blind, alerting deaf owners to sounds, pulling wheelchairs, assisting a person during a seizure, alerting owners to allergens, retrieving medicine or the phone, supporting people with mobility problems and impeding impulsive or destructive behavior.
As a side note motorized conveyances have also been expanded to include golf carts and Segways to operate in areas without defined pedestrian routes.