Saturday, July 19, 2008

More news about Springfield MO woman with monkey: Therapy or service animal status is main point in question

I’ve previously written here about
Debby Rose,
The Springfield, Missouri woman with a real monkey of a problem.

Rose has agoraphobia and a panic disorder and travels with a monkey at her side, which she claims is a service animal. She made national news headlines last year when the local health department sent 1,000 letters to local businesses, instructing them that her monkey is considered a therapy animal, and not a service animal as Rose has contended, under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Director of Health said that by that definition, businesses and establishments governed by the ADA do not have to admit Rose with her monkey named Richard. He stated that the monkey’s presence would violate food and health codes. Rose argued that point in a well-publicized effort, but I’d not heard any more on this matter until recently.

There’s been some news lately on Rose’s on-going battle with the Springfield-Grene County Health Department.

She is challenging the health department’s assertion in court. Just this week,
Rose filed a civil suit
against not only the health department, but also Wal-Mart and Cox Health, where she attempted to attend nursing school

She contends that the letters sent out by the health department stopped her from going to public places, but also denied her from getting an education.

Many businesses quit letting Rose and Richard in after the health department sent out the letters to ban the monkey because of food and health codes.

Rose says she was stopped before she could go into the Wal-Mart on Kansas Expressway.

Rose says, “A manager walked in with the letter in his hand laughing saying you’re not getting in here.”

Rose says she and Richard can’t go anywhere that serves food including her daughter’s soccer game, Wal-Mart and even nursing school at Cox Health.

One of the biggest sticking points that the health department cites is the lack of training for the monkey. Even though Rose asserts that Richard is registered as an assistance animal with three different organizations, and is even a required restriction for her driver’s license, she has not convinced the health director of any formal training process that her animal assistant has undergone.

I’m just wondering about that little matter of that driver’s license restriction, wherein Rose says she was told by the state licensing agency that she could not drive without her “service animal due to her disability.” If that is found as a credible and valid point, will that validate Rose’s case?

This matter again brings to light the important legal difference between a therapy animal and assistance animal under the ADA. It also illustrates the reason why colleges and universities need to be proactive in developing a service animal policy.

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