State updates ‘service animal’ definition

Doug Brown holds his pet ferret, Abe, Jan. 31, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Doug Brown holds his pet ferret, Abe, Jan. 31, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Abe the ferret has a leash and a harness — and he’s Doug Brown’s best buddy.

Brown has a prescription from a doctor for Abe that allows him to live with the ferret. Abe helps with Brown’s mental illness, but it’s important to clarify that Abe is not a service animal.

The law only considers dogs and miniature horses as service animals.

The state’s site defines a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.”

After the KOIN 6 News report on what constitutes a service animal, a viewer wrote to and pointed out a portion of the state’s website inaccurately defines what a service animal is.

The Americans with Disabilities Act changed in 2011 and Oregon law changed in 2013 — but the website did not get updated with the latest laws.

“We strive to keep the information on the website as updated as possible but things do change so we are really appreciative to KOIN for bringing this to our attention, because what we will do is update it,” said Department of Human Services spokesperson Nelsa Brodie.

Doug Brown understands why Abe isn’t considered a service animal, but he said the state should make it crystal clear who qualifies and who doesn’t.

“I do credit (Abe) with a sense of well-being, the joy, the reasons for living,” he told KOIN 6 News.

The reason miniature horses qualify as service animals, according to Disability Rights Oregon, is because horses are smart and trainable and they live longer than dogs. That way people with disabilities can have their companion longer.

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