July 24-30 is Ohio Service Dog Awareness Week.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability, while the tasks performed must be directly related to the person’s disability.
Ohio was the first state in the nation to have an awareness week approved by its state legislature and signed into law. Bill 121, effective May 2016, states that the last week of July is designated as Service Dog Awareness Week in recognition of the important role service dogs play in enhancing the lives of citizens with disabilities.
To celebrate Ohio Service Dog Awareness Week Columbus resident Chris Cooley, who played a huge role in getting the legislation passed in 2016, has organized a service dog awareness walk which will take place in Portsmouth on today. The walk will begin at the Scioto County Courthouse at 10 a.m. where participants will make its way to Tracy Park.
Cooley said the walk is to spread the word of Service Dog Awareness Week, and inform the public about the laws surrounding service animals. While therapy and emotional support animals provide comfort and companionship to their owners and other individuals, service dogs are specifically trained to assist their owners and businesses and organizations that serve the public, are required by law to allow people with disabilities to bring their service dogs into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go.
The federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurant, taxis, stores, hotels, hospitals, medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos. Businesses that deny access or services to a person because they have a service animal can be required to pay monetary damages and fees.