Disability Law

Hospital cannot ban all service animals from psych ward, federal judge rules

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A California hospital can’t unilaterally ban all service animals from certain areas, such as a psychiatric ward, a federal judge has ruled.

Siding with a disabled woman who said she had to choose between getting the treatment she needs for her bipolar disorder and getting the help she needs from her highly trained service dog, Inglis, U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte held last week that El Camino Hospital had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to do an individualized assessment of Inglis before banning the animal, reports Courthouse News.

The hospital had argued that concerns about infection, the safety of its other patients and disruption of ward routine justified the blanket ban.

But that is not what the law requires, Whyte said in a written opinion in the San Jose case:

“El Camino must conduct individualized assessments in accordance with the ADA and the Code of Federal Regulations to determine whether a specific service animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or on the best available objective evidence, to ascertain: the nature, duration and severity of the risk; the probability that the potential injury will actually occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures or the provision of auxiliary aids or services will mitigate the risk.”

Plaintiff Abigayil Tamara, 70, said Inglis helps her with her balance, picks up items she drops, pushes elevator buttons for her and helps her put on her jacket, the news agency reports.

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