What Does Illinois Law Say About Service Animals For The Disabled?

A service animal is usually defined as a dog that provides a needed service for a disabled owner. For example, a deaf owner might use the animal to help keep him alert of potential dangers. A person prone to seizure might have a trained animal capable of running off to find help and alert bystanders that his owner is in trouble. The animals are extremely useful, and sometimes needed. What does Illinois state law say about service animals?

Finding financial aid in order to purchase (or rent) a service animal can be difficult. Going into a Los Angeles social security disability office won’t entitle you to any benefits you wouldn’t receive in an Illinois office, or vice versa, because social security disability insurance (SSDI) is a federal benefit. And sadly, SSDI does not entitle the recipient to a service animal. There is no specific fund set aside so that disabled folks can find what they need.

However, that doesn’t mean you cannot use the supplementary income from SSDI, Medicaid, or Medicare to help you make payments to an organization that rents out service animals or to buy and train your own. You might also keep in mind that SSDI often pays an initial lump sum to make up for the time it took for a disability benefit application to be approved — and that this period of time might have resulted in years of waiting. That means the first payment could be enormous!

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) helps define the phrase “service animal” and lays out the tasks that an animal might perform for its owner — however, the ADA does not actually provide animals or assistance to those who require them.

Keep in mind that service animals are not emotional support animals, and they are not pets. Although the government provides little oversight into how service animals are trained, they are trained. 

Although there are no local, state, or federal laws that guarantee the right to own a service animal unless you can find the means to get one yourself, the Illinois Service Animal Access Act and White Cane Law do guarantee a person the right to be “accompanied by a service animal in public.” That means that a person cannot be forced off of a public property because they are accompanied by an animal. 

According to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office: “Violation of the Service Animal Access Act is a Class C misdemeanor / Violation of the White Cane Law is a Class A misdemeanor / *In certain circumstances, businesses must also permit the use of a miniature horse.”

Private business owners are also required to uphold these laws and act in accordance with the ADA as well. In Illinois, this means that a private business owner can ask whether or not an animal is a service animal — but he cannot request proof that an animal is a service owner. The private business owner should have no expectation or right to see the animal’s documentation. The latter is one of the most controversial stipulations of the aforementioned laws.

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