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Conflicts Involving Service Animals: Human Rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Americans with disabilities know that human rights issues aren’t confined to far off conflicts. People with disabilities encounter impediments to dignity and independent living every day. When people with disabilities encounter violations of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) or Fair Housing Act, one option is to engage in litigation to protect their human rights. Another option is mediation, which aims to reduce the disruption conflict can cause. Disabled people are often refused entry to restaurants or hotels. They can find themselves faced with reduced accessibility and discrimination in their workplaces or living spaces. Rather than burdening disabled people with legal battles, mediation can intervene to find solutions that reinstate disabled people’s place in the community, engaging anyone from landlords, to local authorities, to employers and gym owners to craft good agreements that make traversing space easier for disabled people.

One area of great misunderstanding and stress is the use of service animals in places where animals are normally not permitted. The Fair Housing Act guards against discrimination at the level of design and accessibility, but also protects against discriminatory treatment by landlords. Many people may not understand that service animals are not ordinary pets. Therefore, conflicts involving animals in public and private spaces can often be human rights issues. People with disabilities suffer when they are denied service animals, but litigation can be a costly and unnecessary ordeal that denies disabled people a peaceful existence while conflict is raging with a landlord or local business owner.

Recent conflicts involving service animals have highlighted some of the obstacles disabled people have to face on a daily basis. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a girl with cerebral palsy to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act after her school prohibited her from relying on her goldendoodle, Wonder, to assist her during the day. Last month, in Butte, Montana, a federal jury returned a $37,343 against a landlord who charged a tenant with physical and psychiatric disabilities to keep a service animal. In Vermont, (in reference to two human rights cases involving service animals), the Human Rights Commission Executive Director asked people to think of service animals in public spaces the way they would think of people with wheelchairs: “You wouldn’t ask that person to leave their wheelchair elsewhere.”

In many cases, landlords and business owners are either unaware, or unwilling to consider that they could be violating disabled people’s rights by not making accommodation for service animals. Disabled people feel compelled to defend their rights in court, which can be a difficult, emotional process. At Boileau Conflict Solutions, we provide human rights mediation that defends human rights while making the conflict resolution process easier. We may be able to ensure that disabled people don’t have to move and/or sacrifice privacy in order to have their rights protected. We are a group of caring and well-educated mediators and negotiators with financial, legal, and psychological backgrounds who strongly believe that we can solve conflicts concerning human rights with non-violent approaches and solutions. We utilize techniques informed by game theory and psychological and mathematical approaches to drive sensitive, strategic approaches to conflict resolution. In addition to providing human rights mediation, we are animal rights mediators who believe humans and animals can work towards peaceful co-existence. Please contact us today to see how we can help.

Read more on this topic:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/22/supreme-court-disabled-girl-wonder-service-dog/98214948/
http://mtstandard.com/crime-and-courts/jury-decides-landlord-must-pay-in-disability-discrimination-case/article_49b9ced3-e284-5161-8c0a-1860b4eb4bed.html
https://vtdigger.org/2017/05/31/service-animals-focus-two-human-rights-cases/

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