[nagdu] Service dogs welcomed in most Costa Rican restaurants

Ginger Kutsch GingerKutsch at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 2 13:04:35 UTC 2013

Service dogs welcomed in most Costa Rican restaurants

Posted: Sunday, September 01, 2013 - By Erin Morris 


Though Costa Rica is not on par with the permissiveness of the U.S., it’s
rare for a restaurant here to deny a service 



When Sarah and her poodle Ashley arrived at a popular steakhouse in La
Fortuna, in northern Costa Rica, they were hoping to 

satisfy their hunger and get some relief from the sun’s heat. But as soon as
they took a seat at a table under the shade of 

the restaurant’s front awning, they were asked to leave.


Sarah asked to speak with the manager, who said they were welcome to stay,
but they had to sit at a picnic table behind the 

restaurant, which was in direct sunlight. Disappointed, they left.


It shouldn’t have happened. Ashley the poodle was trained and certified in
the United States to recognize if her owner, 

Sarah, is going to have a seizure. Sarah is accustomed to traveling
everywhere with Ashley.


“Up to the point of the La Fortuna restaurant, and one other restaurant in
San José, near the airport Holiday Inn, I've had 

a very accepting, and welcoming experience in Costa Rica,” Sarah, who asked
that we not use her last name, said.


The rejection came as a surprise, considering the permissiveness of a law
regarding service animals in the U.S. Costa Rica 

hasn’t quite caught up.  


In 1990, U.S. President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. This U.S. federal law 

allows people with disabilities to take their service animals anywhere, and
it does not require the service animal to wear 

a vest or a tag or other identification. All the owner has to do is say,
“It’s a service animal,” say what work or task it 

performs, and the animal must be admitted.


The 2010 U.S. ADA legislation defines 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." Some state and local laws define service animal more
broadly. In some areas of the U.S., snakes, 

lizards, chickens, pigeons and rodents have been declared service animals,
allowing them to ride public transportation, 

live in apartments and enter private businesses.


In Costa Rica, the laws have yet to define “service animal.” In fact, up
until 2008, the term “perro guía” (“seeing-eye 

dog” or “guide dog”) was the only animal written in to legislation
concerning disabilities. The 2008 legislation, Law 8661, 

introduced a broader term than guide dog: “assistance must be offered
through humans or animals or intermediaries, i.e. 

sign language professionals, guides or readers, to facilitate access to
public places.”


While the language seems extremely vague, the government-appointed National
Council for Special Education and 

Rehabilitation (CNREE) states that this law allows for broader definition of
animal than “guide dog.”


“This law 
 refers to the use of animal assistance in general, and not
specifically for people with visual disabilities, 

but for people with disabilities who require animal assistance,” the CNREE


So the La Fortuna steakhouse was in the wrong, acting against Costa Rican
law by not permitting Sarah and Ashley to eat in 

the restaurant. Curious about whether this was a singular incident, I called
a few more places around Costa Rica to ask 

whether a service animal would be permitted. At each restaurant, the person
who answered the phone put me on hold to 

consult with someone else. The answer was always the same though: There
would be no problem at all.


Many restaurants in Costa Rica are seemingly accepting of service dogs. I
wonder, though, how accepting they would be of 

service iguanas or snakes? 


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