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Library welcomes trained service animals only

by BRENDEN BOBBY Contributing Writer
| August 20, 2021 1:00 AM

We all love our pets and wish we could bring them everywhere with us. I, personally, have a wonderfully well-behaved Vietnamese potbelly pig named Sir Francis Bacon, but there are some places Franny just can’t go. The library is one of those places.

There are only two types of animals allowed at the library: Trained service dogs and trained service miniature horses. These animals have undergone rigorous training specifically to help people with disabilities perform specific tasks or duties.

The library directly follows the guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or ADA. To directly quote the guidelines:

"Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

Under these guidelines, I have to keep Francis at home - but that’s okay, he gets a little clingy and sometimes I just need my space. It also means that I cannot bring my two dogs, Aries and Tilly, since they haven’t been trained as service animals, even when their presence makes me feel happy and at ease.

Contrary to what many people believe, service dogs aren’t required to wear vests or have any outward indication that they are a service animal. This, however, does not give all dogs a free pass as the behavior of the animal will quickly reveal whether or not it has been trained to serve the person it is accompanying.

Dogs that bark, jump on people, make a mess in the library or try to bite are not trained service animals, and library staff is required to approach the owner and request that the animal is removed from the library.

In the state of Idaho, it is actually illegal to claim that you have a service animal if you knowingly do not.

“§ 18-5811A Since 1997 in Idaho, any person, not being a disabled person or being trained to assist disabled persons, who uses an assistance device or assistance dog to gain treatment or benefits as a disabled person, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Not being able to bring your pet into the library may be frustrating, but there are some very clear reasons as to why library staff cannot allow it. Randy works extremely hard to maintain the building and keep it professional, clean and odor-free so that everyone can enjoy a safe, quiet space to concentrate and relax. Some patrons using the library may be working on a test or an application for a career that could change their life, and the distraction of an untrained animal moves them further away from achieving success. Some people may be allergic to dogs, while others may have experienced a traumatic experience from a dog in the past. I once endured a takedown from an untrained dog while on the job, and ever since have been extremely hesitant when interacting with unfamiliar canines.

Our goal here at the library is to make sure that everyone can have an enjoyable and productive experience- even if that means that some of us can’t bring our beloved pets inside with us. They’ll be waiting for us once we get home.

Brenden Bobby can be reached at the East Bonner County Library, 1407 Cedar Street, Sandpoint, by phone at 208-263-6930, or email at brenden@ebonnerlibrary.org.