Service Animals and the ADA!

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), a “service animal” is only a dog that is individually trained, works or performs tasks for individuals with physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disabilities. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

It is important for the hospitality industry to understand what qualifies are a service animal under the ADA. The ADA does not recognize comfort animals, therapy animals, or companion animals. An animal whose sole function is to provide therapy is not a “service animal” under ADA.

How to verify?

In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.

The ADA requires that service animals be under the control of the handler at all times. In most instances, the handler will be the individual with a disability or a third party who accompanies the individual with a disability. The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal.

For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may use a long, retractable leash to allow her service animal to pick up or retrieve items. She may not allow the dog to wander away from her and must maintain control of the dog, even if it is retrieving an item at a distance from her. Or, a returning veteran who has PTSD and has great difficulty entering unfamiliar spaces may have a dog that is trained to enter a space, check to see that no threats are there, and come back and signal that it is safe to enter. The dog must be off leash to do its job, but may be leashed at other times. Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

There are specific rules under the ADA that are tailored specifically to hoteliers and public service accommodations. Please contact us, your business law attorneys for more information. Staying informed helps limit ingenuine service animals and support and welcome your guests and comply with ADA.

Source: ADA

Actions to Take When a Hurricane Threatens for Individuals & Business Owners

When a hurricane threatens your community, be prepared to evacuate if you live in a storm surge risk area. Allow enough time to pack and inform friends and family if you need to leave your home.
Secure your home:
  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows.
  • A second option is to board up windows with 5/8 inch exterior grade or marine plywood, built to fit and ready to install.
  • Buy supplies before the hurricane season rather than waiting for the pre-storm rush.
 Stayed tuned in:
  • Check the websites of your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office.
  • Find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or other radio or TV stations for the latest storm news.
  • Follow instructions issued by local officials.
  • Leave immediately if ordered!
If NOT ordered to evacuate:
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level during the storm.
  • Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.
  • Stay away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
  • If the eye of the storm passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm, but at the other side of the eye, the wind speed rapidly increases to hurricane force winds coming from the opposite direction.
Stay informed. Visit www.floridadisaster.org to find Florida’s Division of Emergency Management. Text FLPREPARES to 888777 to receive updates via text or use the Florida Emergency Information Line 1-800-342-3557. For live updates on Hurricane Irma, follow the State Emergency Response Team @FLSERT on Twitter and Facebook. VISIT FLORIDA is also providing weather updates and official source links for visitors to keep up with the latest changes here.Register your business with FLVBEOC. Register to report your open/closed business status, complete a business damage assessment survey and request or offer resources. Businesses may also report their status to esf18@em.myflorida.com and via the Private Sector Hotline 850-410-1403.

Know before you go. For up-to-date traffic information, visit FL511.com or call 511. Use GasBuddy to find gas stations with fuel.

Learn re-entry requirements. Governor Scott has issued an Executive Order that rescinds all weight and driver restrictions for highways so water, food, fuel and emergency supplies can be quickly brought to Florida. After the storm, individuals and businesses seeking to provide essential commodities and services to impacted areas will be allowed re-entry by possessing and presenting specific documentation to local officials. Learn what you need.

Provide emergency accommodations and have compassion for cancellations. Those seeking available lodging may find and reserve a room here. Reserve by brand here. During this emergency, lodging operators are strongly encouraged to waive cancellation fees and to not require minimum stays for evacuees. In preparation for FEMA’s potential activation of the Emergency Lodging Assistance program, lodging operators are encouraged to sign-up here.

Extend hospitality to pet evacuees. FRLA strongly urges its members, and the industry at large, to consider waiving normal pet restrictions and fees for evacuees seeking shelter and safety during this catastrophic storm. Search for pet-friendly lodging on BringFido.com or PetFriendlyTravel.com.

Follow power outages. Find a map of statewide power outages here. FPL customers can use the FPL Power Tracker map, and report or track outage information at www.FPL.com/outage or call 1-800-4-OUTAGE (1-800-468-8243).

Food safety tips. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, there may likely be power outages and flooding.  Both pose a risk to the integrity of food and water. For a guide to food safety during severe storms, visit the USDA or Florida’s Division of Hotels and Restaurants to learn guidelines for emergency recovery.

Free WiFi access. Comcast has opened more than 137,000 free Xfinity WiFi hotspots throughout the state for individuals in need, including non-Xfinity customers, to help residents and emergency personnel stay connected. Find a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots here.

Report price gouging. As the entire state of Florida is under a declared state of emergency, Florida’s price gouging law applies statewide. Learn how to comply and/or report violations online or via the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline at 1-866-966-7226.

Filing insurance claims. Florida’s Division of Consumer Services offers assistance to insurance consumers in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma by offering the insurance Consumer Helpline 1-877-693-5236Learn more.

For additional information and continued updates, visit FRLA’s Hurricane Resource Center for a comprehensive guide of tips on how to stay safe during the storm and how to recover and rebuild.

Most of all stay safe our Florida family, friends, colleagues and clients!
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Sources: AAHOA, Visit Florida, FRLA

Make sure your Hotel is ADA Compliant!

“Drive by” ADA lawsuits are once again on the rise. These professional plaintiffs and their unscrupulous lawyers know that most warranties on pool lifts installed in 2012-2013 have expired and that some pool lifts are in need of repair. Now it is more important than ever to be proactive with your ADA compliance.
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These plaintiffs are hoping that you won’t take the time or spend the money to get the lifts repaired. Don’t be an easy target!  Get your pool lift inspected and repaired today. The money you spend now will save you even more money and the aggravation of a lawsuit in the future.  If your property is not ADA compliant, the question is not will I get sued, but when. We can refer you to vendors who provide ADA inspections, so don’t delay. Avoid a lawsuit now — make sure your pool lift and your entire property is ADA compliant.
Attorney Gulati is a proud Florida Ambassador of one of the largest organizations in the nation, Asian American Hotel Owners Association, representing thousands of hotel owners nationwide.
Complimentary Source: AAHOA

Americans with Disabilities Act Lawsuits Impacting Hotel Owners

It has come to our attention through our clients and other Hotel Owners/Hotel Management, that there has been a significant increase in the number of lawsuits against hoteliers for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (hereinafter “ADA”). A typical scenario is that a single plaintiff files over 50 lawsuits against hoteliers in a specific geographic region that has been inspected. In each of these cases, the plaintiff’s central issue focused on pool lift regulations. It is therefore extremely important for hoteliers to understand the ADA requirements and what you need to do to comply with the law. We have helped defend some of these lawsuits and had success helping our clients settle them, unfortunately this is something you cannot ignore.

“The United States Department of Justice has compiled a list of requirements to encourage compliance with pool lift regulations, a set of common questions and answers and checklist for lodging facilities. Knowing your rights and responsibilities is the best way for you to protect your businesses, your investments and your families from parties who are looking to exploit these issues to turn a quick profit at your expense.”

Please follow the links below to review these rules and ensure your hotel properties are compliant with the law:

ADA Pool Lift Requirements
ADA Checklist for New Lodging Facilities

As an Ambassador of the Florida Region of AAHOA and a Florida Hotel Attorney, Attorney Sarah Gulati, would love to hear all your concerns and issues regarding ADA lawsuits targeting pool lift compliance. 

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Source: AAHOA bulletin~by Chip Rogers AAHOA President & CEO.

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