Animals on TriMet
From Portland Afoot
Animals on TriMet are allowed only if they are:
- tethered assistance animals,
- carried in fully enclosed, "well-designed" containers, or
- trained police dogs.
Until a new set of regulations takes effect, any "companion animal" or "therapy animal" can qualify as an assistance animal for TriMet's purposes, and the agency says its employees are forbidden from requiring or asking for proof of any kind that an animal is an assistance animal.
"We can't ask a customer, 'Do you have a disability? What is your disability?'" spokesman Josh Collins said at a Committee on Accessible Transportation meeting in December 2010. "There is no universal federal certification for a service animal."
 Current rules
 How to spot an animal breaking the rules
Under TriMet Code 28.15, an animal is breaking TriMet's rules:
- If it is neither an assistance animal nor in a secure container. Containers must be "appropriate and constructed for carrying the size and type of animal" and animals must be able to be "transported (i) without risk of injury to the animal ... without risk of harm or inconvenience to other riders or District personnel, and ... in accordance with all other provisions of the TriMet Code."
- If it is untethered. Assistance animals must be "under control of the person by leash, harness or other device made for the purpose of controlling the movement of an animal."
- If it is out of the owner's control, not housebroken, or otherwise showing signs of being untrained. If an assistance animal is "not behaving like a service animal, regardless of what the person says, you can still deny service to that animal. Not the person with the disability, but to the animal," TriMet attorney Shelly Devine said in December 2010.
 How to spot an operator breaking the rules
- If an operator refuses to believe a person's claim or asks for documentation that an animal is an "assistance," "companion," "therapy" or "service" animal. According to the Department of Justice, "documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability."
 What to do if the rules are being broken
TriMet suggests that riders who see animal rule violations report them to the operator or, failing that, TriMet's general comment line at 503-238-RIDE.
"The operator may handle the situation themselves, or sometimes they may call dispatch to have a supervisor or police respond, depending on the situation," spokesman Josh Collins said in December 2010. "If a customers doesn’t believe that the operator has taken the appropriate action, they should call 238-RIDE to make a complaint. It is important that they include the date/time of the incident and the number of the bus. That will help us to identify the operator so we can make sure they understand the policies."
 Penalties for violating TriMet animal policies
According to Chapter 28 of TriMet code, the "base fine" for an animal violation on TriMet is $175, though fines up to $250 are allowed.
TriMet spokesman Josh Collins said in December 2010 that in 2010 the agency had issued "eight warnings, four citations and two exclusions for animal-related violations of TriMet Code. Most of them involved dogs who were sitting on seats not on a leash, or who were admittedly not service animals and so should have been in a container."
"In two instances," Collins wrote, a fine "was combined with an exclusion for 30 days."
 New rules
If a rule change approved by the TriMet board of directors takes effect as planned, only service animals will be welcome on TriMet, except in containers, and only dogs could automatically qualify as service animals. The use of any other animal as a service animal on TriMet would require a specific exemption from the office of TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane.
TriMet employees and disability experts said in December 2010 that they are aware of dogs, cats, spiders, ferrets and birds all being claimed as companion or therapy animals. In most cases, these would be forbidden.
 Guidelines from Obama's Department of Justice
The changes to TriMet's rules are prompted by new regulations from the federal Department of Justice, signed July 10, 2010 and taking effect March 15, 2011.
The new rules define a "service animal" as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition."
They also lay out the tasks a service animal can perform:
"Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition."
 Exception for miniature horses
 Federal rules allow horses
"A public entity shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability."
 Disability committee recommends no special exemption for horses
TriMet staff said in December 2010 that they don't know of any Portlander who uses a guide horse. In January 2011, TriMet's Committee on Accessible Transportation recommended that TriMet require guide horse users to apply for special permission to take them on TriMet, unlike dog guide users.
Horses were not mentioned as an allowable animal in the version of the rules approved by the TriMet board of directors at their Dec. 8 hearing. At its December meeting, the CAT recommended that the TriMet board provide the same exception as the federal government, then reversed itself the next month.
At the Dec. 15 meeting, Committee on Accessible Transportation member James Jackson, president of the Rose City chapter of the National Federation for the Blind of Oregon, said it would be foolish for TriMet to set a high bar for service horses just because the idea sounds strange.
"The reason they're being used is they live twice as long as the dogs do -- it's an investment," Jackson said in December 2010. "They don't have the same kind of establishment funding source in the United States [as dog guides]. I think it's just a matter of time, really."
 Questions about service horses
The following questions and answers are adapted from the website of the Guide Horse Foundation.
- How tall are guide horses? "All miniature horses must measure less than 26 inches high at the withers."
- Do guide horses live indoors? "All Guide Horses regularly work indoors ... when they are off-duty, Guide Horses greatly prefer to stay outdoors. ... All Guide Horse handlers are required to have a fenced outdoor area and barn."
- Do miniature horses smell bad? "Guide Horses can be kept virtually odor-free with regular grooming and periodic bathing."
- Are guide horses spooky and flighty? "The individual temperament of horses varies widely. Part of the Guide Horse training involves acclimation to sudden unexpected noises. The mini horses are trained to remain calm even in noisy chaotic situations."
- How long do horses live? "Horses commonly live to be 25 - 35 years old."
 Unusual service animals from around the country
- Pigs: In 2000, Maria Andrews brought her 300-pound potbellied pig Charlotte onto a US Airways flight to Seattle. The pig was needed to relieve stress from a heart condition, she said – and the FAA agreed.
- Parrots: Jim Eggers of St. Louis has a parrot, Sadie, who has learned to defuse Eggers' psychotic spells by saying “It’s O.K., Jim. You’re all right, Jim. I’m here, Jim.” Sadie learned it from Jim, who talks to himself.
- Boa constrictors: Daniel Greene of Seattle says his boa constrictor, Redrock, warns him about seizures by squeezing his neck. It's important, he says, "to be stronger than the snake."
- story about March 2011 rule changes by Willamette Week
- story about "seeing-eye ponies" by Horseman Magazine
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