Service Animal Policy
Can I bring my service animal to my appointment?
Under Texas and federal law, individuals can have service dogs for a variety of physical and psychiatric reasons. Patients are not required to provide proof of certification or training of the animal and the animal is not required to have any sort of vest or other identification. The questions we can ask the patient about the animal and its purpose are extremely limited and it is best to just accept the patient's word that it is a service dog. However, the dog is required to be under the control of the patient at all times. The dog must be restrained by a leash or harness, except in the rare situation where the patient’s disability prevents use of a leash or harness. (In that case, the dog must be fully restrained by verbal or signal commands.) If the dog is unrestrained and is a nuisance or hazard to other patients or staff, such as relieving itself, running around off leash or barking or biting at others, you may ask that the dog be removed from the premises. You cannot refuse service to the patient if the patient complies and removes the dog from the office.
Dogs that do not perform a specific task, but rather provide comfort or emotional support are called “emotional support animals.” Individuals are able to obtain emotional support animal prescription letters from internet therapists. However, emotional support animals do not qualify as service animals under the ADA or Chapter 121 of the Texas Human Resources Code. Emotional support animals do not enjoy the same protections under the law as service dogs, but are afforded certain legal protections—e.g., in housing and airline travel.
The questions Radiology Associates, LLP can ask a patient are extremely limited. In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, employees may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? See 28 CFR § 35.136(f); Tex. Hum. Res. Code § 121.003(l). Employees are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability. See 28 CFR § 35.136(f); Tex. Hum. Res. Code § 121.003(k).
Radiology Associates, LLP should be as accommodating as possible with respect to allowing service dogs in an exam room. If a patient wishes to bring the service animal into the exam room, the patient should be told that it is permitted, but the patient should be aware that any behavioral problems with the animal may lead to the animal being removed. If the patient has no one to take care of the animal during the procedure, outside the premises, then the exam may need to be rescheduled. This information should be conveyed as soon as the animal is mentioned by the patient. Staff should not bring up the idea of service animals but should be trained to respond to questions, and to refer any questions they cannot answer, with confidence, to a supervisor or manager.
The patient should be aware that the presence of the animal in the exam room carries a risk of harm because of exposure to radiation or high-pitched sounds in the MRI room. Be sure they understand the risks.
Radiology Associates, LLP may ask the patient to remove the service dog from the exam room if the dog is affected by the exam to the point that the patient is unable to maintain control. The presence of the animal in an exam room must not prevent the procedure from being conducted in a safe and effective manner, or in a manner that interferes with the actions of the staff.