Friday, January 7, 2011

Centers for Disease Control Gives Thumbs Up to DOJ Definition of Service Animal

I asked in a prior blog (July 6, 2010) whether a macaque could be a psychiatric service animal. I said that it could but noted that regulations proposed by the Department of Justice would exclude nonhuman primates from the definition of "service animal." Those regulations were soon made final. (See blog of September 15, 2010.) Now the Centers for Disease Control has proposed rules under which importation of nonhuman primates to be service animals would be prohibited.

The proposed rules concern those circumstances under which primates may be imported, which include for scientific, educational, and exhibition purposes. In stating that service animals do not fit in any of these categories, the CDC explains that it agrees with the Department of Justice that primates should not be service animals:

"On July 23, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder signed final regulations revising U.S. Department of Justice regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which included a revised definition of 'service animal.' Effective February, 2011, these regulations limit the definition of service animals to dogs. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. CDC has carefully considered the potential risks associated with the use of imported nonhuman primates as service animals and agrees with the position of the U.S. Department of Justice that nonhuman primates should not be recognized as service animals because of their potential for disease transmission and unpredictable aggressive behavior."

The wording, it appears to me, does not completely exclude the possibility that horses or cats could, from the CDC's perspective, be accepted as service animals. The CDC makes no reference to the Department of Justice's acceptance of miniature horses as fitting in a category substantially identical to dogs, but this would not have been appropriate in the context of rules concerning the importation of primates.

The current regulations preclude "maintenance of nonhuman primates as pets, hobby, or an avocation with occasional display to the general public," but do not mention service animals. 42 CFR 71.53(c). Curiously, the revised regulations would also not mention service animals, but rather confine the service animal discussion to the preamble. It would seem that if the CDC wanted to assure the widest dissemination of its perspective, it would have put some no-primate-is-a-service-animal language in the regulations themselves.

Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Requirements for Importers of Nonhuman Primates, RIN 0920-AA23, 76 Fed. Reg. 678 (January 5, 2011).


  1. This change in the law discriminates against disabled war veterans who cannot use their hands, and need to use service monkeys from Helping Hands in Massachusetts. The law also discriminates against dog-allergic disabled people who need a service animals, as the law provides no alternative for dog-allergic disabled folks. Tell the government this is unfair by signing the petition.

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