In Maryland, an animal must meet certain criteria to be classified as a “service animal”. All businesses, nonprofits, and public facilities within the United States must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The first draft of the bill was introduced to the United States Congress in 1988. President George H. W. Bush signed the final draft of the bill into law on July 26, 1990. In 2008, the ADA was amended and signed by President George W. Bush. The Department of Justice is responsible for the enforcement of the ADA, prohibiting discrimination against people with a disability and their service animal.
Prince George’s County, Maryland – Definition of a Service Animal
In order for an animal to be legally classified as a “service animal”, the animal must meet the specific criteria:
- Specially trained to provide disabled individuals assistance with daily activities
- Must be housebroken
- Should be vaccinated and kept up to date on rabies vaccination
Service animals are not domestic pets and may or may not be certified or licensed. It is the handler’s responsibility to maintain control of their service animal, when at home or in a public establishment. The “No Pets” policy does not apply to service animals. The service animal may accompany the individual into a restaurant, healthcare clinic, government entity, park, theater, public transportation facilities, and supermarkets. If at any time the animal becomes out of control or poses a direct threat to others, management has the right to ask the handler to remove the animal from the premises.
The animal must be under the handler’s control at all times, with a harness, leash, or tether. However, there are cases in which handlers are unable to hold a tether due to their disability. In these cases, the handler must maintain control of the service animal utilizing hand signals, voice commands, or other effective means.
A public service provider has the right to ask the handler if the animal is required because of disability. They may also inquire about the task or work the animal is trained to perform. Questions should not pertain to the individual’s disabilities or the animal’s certification. Employers are required under the ADA to allow employees with disabilities to have a service animal accompany them to work. If at any time the employer becomes suspicious about the employee’s disability and need for the service animal, documentation of disability may be requested. A letter from a licensed physician, documenting chronic health conditions that impair mobility and activities of daily living should provide sufficient evidence of need.
Qualifying As Disabled Under The ADA
Individuals with mental or physical impairment, limiting one or more activities of daily living qualify as disabled under the ADA. Mental and physical impairment include, but not limited to diseases, conditions, and disorders that represent visual, hearing, speech, and orthopedic impairment. This also includes diabetes, HIV, alcoholism, cardiovascular disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and autism.
Housing With Service Animals
Housing providers must make exceptions for service animals, even though they have a “No pets” policy in force. Some housing providers opt to collect a pet deposit from tenants with domestic animals. This requirement does not apply to service animals, since they are not classified as a pet. A service animal is a necessity for an individual with disabilities, because the animal’s sole purpose is to accommodate the activities of daily living.
Licensing Your Pet
The Prince George’s County, Maryland Animal Control Ordinance is designed to assist in protecting the public and animals. The AMD requires all owners to obtain a license for their dog, ferret, or cat. The regulation goes into effect when the pet turns 4 months old or 30 days after residency is established. The pet must also be inoculated against rabies to protect the public. Any resident 65 years of age or older will be entitled to 2 pet licenses annually. Fees will not be imposed, if license is purchased in-person at one of the Prince George’s County Animal Services Facility (see below for address).
The license application can be downloaded for free at the official Prince George’s County Government website (see below for link). Form of payment accepted include check or money order, please make payable to “Prince George’s County”. The application must accompany a copy of the animal’s spay/neuter and current rabies vaccination certificate. Spay or neuter of owned animal is not mandatory for license approval.
Service Dog Identification
Service dogs are not required to be identified with an associated vest, harness, or tag. However, many owners choose to purchase one of these items to eliminate public curiosity and verbal confrontations.
Animal Management Division (Mail-In or Walk-In Services)
3750 Brown Station Road
Upper Marlboro, Maryland 20772
Bowie Animal Control (walk-in services only)
15901 Excalibur Road
Bowie, Maryland 20716
College Park Municipal Center (walk-in services only)
4500 Knox Road
College Park, Maryland 20740
Laurel City Hall (walk-in services only)
8103 Sandy Spring Road
Laurel, Maryland 20707
Downloadable License Application: http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/DocumentCenter/View/144
Website Scams: It is important to note that there are various websites that claim to “Register” or “Certify” service animals. There are no federal government agencies that provide this service, nor does the federal government officially designate any business as a certifier or registrar.