The Mohave County Board of Supervisors will vote next week on a resolution that could ban animals from being brought into county facilities.
“We’ve had a couple of departments contact us,” said Mohave County Risk and Emergency Management Director Byron Steward. “Members of the community have been bringing their dogs into county buildings, and workers say the barking is distracting their operations and interfering with people getting their work done.”
According to Steward’s proposal, there is currently no policy in Mohave County facilities in reference to animals. While visitors may bring their animals inside with them to escape the heat or cold, they could be causing a potential disruption or even a hazardous situation by doing so.
“If these animals get into a fight, or bite someone … there haven’t been any issues like that yet,” Steward said. “We hope we can eliminate the problem, and that it can be a preventative measure to keep these animals from attacking or biting people in the future.”
Exceptions to the proposed policy would include law enforcement K9 animals and specially-trained service animals. But according to Steward, allowing those exceptions could itself be a challenge.
The Arizonans with Disabilities Act allows dogs and miniature horses to have access to all public places, stipulating that such animals are specifically trained to perform a function that benefits a person with a disability. However, the same law prohibits businesses and government departments from inquiring as to the nature of owners’ disabilities, or asking for documentation of the animal’s status as a service animal. The law also does not require that animals wear tags, vests or other proof of certification.
“We’re allowed to ask owners what task their animal is trained to perform,” Steward said. “We can’t verify their status for certain, but most animals that are trained as service animals are also trained to behave in public, and aren’t disruptive at all. If we allow animals into county buildings and they misbehave, we can still ask their owners to leave.”
The Arizonans with Disabilities Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, applies to guide dogs, hearing aid dogs and other animals that aid their owners with a specific disability. The law does not, however, apply to “emotional support” animals, which are trained to offer emotional assistance to those with mental, emotional or psychiatric disorders.
Service animals can still be excluded from public places if they are shown to not be housebroken, or if the animal may pose a direct threat to the safety of others, or poses an undue burden on an establishment.
More than a nuisance for county employees, however, Steward says that such dogs pose a potential liability issue for the county if they aren’t controlled.
According to Steward, a downside to the proposed policy for county buildings will be the need to have county employees trained on how to interact with visitors who choose to bring their animals, and how the Americans with Disabilities Act requires such interactions to take place.
The Mohave County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on whether to pursue implementing such a policy at its Dec. 2 meeting in Kingman.