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Disability Law

Woman Can’t Take Her Pet Monkey to Restaurants, Federal Judge Rules

Posted Oct 23, 2009 6:41 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A Missouri woman has lost her legal bid to have her monkey, Richard, accompany her to restaurants and other business establishments.

Richard is a pet, not a service animal to the disabled, U.S. District Judge Richard Dorr ruled Wednesday, and his owner, Debby Rose, is not disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act, reports the News-Leader. Hence he granted a summary judgment motion by the defendants seeking the dismissal of the case.

Claiming that she needs Richard, a 10-year-old Bonnet Macaque monkey, to help her deal with her anxiety and agoraphobia, Rose sued the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, Cox Health Systems and Wal-Mart Supercenter. She contended that the defendants had interfered with her ability to take the service animal with her on her daily activities—as she would have a right to do if he qualified as a service animal under the ADA.

The health department, explains Dorr in his written opinion, investigated after receiving several complaints about Richard's presence in restaurants and determined that he was not a service animal. The department then sent letters to local businesses instructing them that Richard was a public health threat and should not be admitted; citing the letter, Wal-Mart refused to let Rose enter with the monkey. A similar situation occurred at a Cox Health Systems facility, where Rose was taking classes.

Despite her claimed disability, Rose has been personally and professionally successful for decades, Dorr writes, marrying, raising six children and working outside her home. "While the court does not doubt that the monkey provides plaintiff with a sense of comfort and helps her cope with any anxiety she may have, the ADA requires more for an animal to qualify as a service animal."

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Is Boa Constrictor a Service Animal? Proposed DOJ Standard Says No"

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