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Assembly Bill No. 862: New law seeks to ensure service dogs’ access to public places

By: Cristina N. Hyde, JD

 

On February 14, 2022, a new law concerning service dogs’ access to public places was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee of the New Jersey General Assembly.  Simply put, Assembly Bill No. 862, also known as the Tucker & McKnight Bill, requires employee training concerning access to public facilities for individuals with service or guide dogs.

Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is a dog that is individually trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability.  Some of the many necessary functions these animals perform include serving as a guide for people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf to their surroundings, or protecting an individual who is having a seizure. Therefore, the ADA requires that businesses allow service dogs to accompany their owners anywhere the owner is permitted to go in order to fulfill their function as an aid.

Despite this requirement, however, misinformation and confusion surrounding this subject continues to cause embarrassing circumstances where disabled individuals are denied access to public places because of their accompanying service dog.  The new legislation seeks to rectify this situation through education.

Applicable to any employers having employees who serve customers or individuals in a place of public accommodation, key points of Assembly Bill No. 862 include:

  • A mandate that all employees be trained regarding the right of an individual with a disability to be accompanied by a guide or service dog.
  • A requirement that the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development create an electronically available pamphlet providing information on the rights of individuals with disabilities and their service animals which contains a list of topics to be included in employee training.
  • A mandate that employers required to provide training distribute a paper copy of the Commissioner’s pamphlet and obtain acknowledgement of receipt in writing.

Under the new legislation, training requirements can be satisfied in several ways including no-cost training provided by the Division of Civil Right in the Department of Law and Public Safety or through the New Jersey State Bar Association.

As always, Campanella Law Office will be monitoring Assembly Bill No. 862 as it progresses through the legislative process.  Meanwhile, if you have any question regarding your business and the ADA’s requirements regarding service animals, Contact Us.

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