Legal loopholes are common in Costa Rican legislation. In some cases, these gaps have been filled with new regulatory bodies or through jurisprudence. However, some still exist that make proper enforcement of one or more rights impossible, even through normative interpretation.
This is the case with regard to Article 45bis of the Law No. 7600 on Equal Opportunities for the Disabled, regarding “assistant animals”. The right of the disabled population to use the aforementioned laws and regulations as a support animal in 3 articles in total (Article 45 of the Law No. 7600 and Articles 68 and 176 of the Law No. 7600); to allow access to buildings and public and private transport. However, its laws or regulations do not specify which types of animals are “helper animals”. Since the realism of the cited article is as follows:
“Disabled people using guide dogs or assistive animals and mobility-supporting products will be able to access all public transportation vehicles and all public or private buildings free of charge without any additional cost.”
The legislator, in Article 176 of the said regulation, support, guidance and assistance of the disabled person, but does not determine the training requirements (training) of these animals. This represents a second legal vacuum regarding the duties of the owner of the animal and the behavior expected of him.
At the legal level, an attempt has been made to fill the legal gap regarding how a “helper animal” should behave. The Constitutional Chamber states that “(…) the dog must be individually trained to perform work or perform duties for the benefit of a person with a disability, including those with physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric, mental or other intellectual disabilities.” (Decision No: 16385-2018) ) The Constitutional Chamber also states, “(…) the training of the dog is not limited to the companionship and assistance of the disabled person, but is limited to the appropriate behavior. in the available environment. It is understood that he will not bark unless there is an emergency, he will not attack third parties, and he cannot meet his physiological needs in society. (Decision No. 27388-2021)
And the phrase “to do a job or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability” is of paramount importance to the current analysis and is an essential element in trying to resolve the question of which animals can help. . Well, in order to determine which animals qualify to provide assistance to a person with a disability, it is necessary to understand where this competence comes from.
It is doctrinally classified as an animal trained to pick up objects, pull a wheelchair, warn against sounds, and perform other similar actions for the benefit of the disabled person. service animal. And in service animals (also working animals), there are a number of subcategories that can be understood as general categories, for example therapy animals Y assistance dogsamong others (Brennan, 2014).
this therapy animals allow direct intervention with pre-designed targets, in which an animal meeting certain criteria participates, as an essential part of a treatment that provides physical, social, emotional and cognitive benefits individually or as a group; only with dogs, horses and dolphins (Roblejo, 2009). The training and use of such animals is aimed at various social groups, not just for the benefit of the disabled population. Also, therapy animals are not tied to a particular owner, as therapy services are provided by a large number of people.
in the category assistance dogslimits the private participation of dogs and defines it as a dog trained to assist and assist a person with some type of disability or illness. There are several breeds in which guide dogs, signal dogs, motor assistance dogs and medical assistance dogs can be bred (Bill of Law File No. 19050, Legislative Assembly, San José). In this category, we see how the benefit of the disabled population prevails; In case of disability, there is a direct relationship between the assist dog and its owner.
According to the emerging doctrine, it can be sensed that when the regulations include companion animals, they should be interpreted as companion dogs. Well, if another type of animal providing support is mentioned, then it should be understood that it has happened before. emotional support animalsIt is a completely different and separate category from the other categories. service animals. this support animals emotional it provides companionship, alleviates loneliness and sometimes helps with depression, anxiety and some phobias, but they do not have a special education (Brennan, 2014). This last element is the difference between. service (work) animals Y emotional support animalsspecial education requirement.
From the foregoing it can be concluded that the only animals allowed by the law to enter places serving the public are animals. assistance dogs. But that raises the final question to ask, how do you verify that it’s a companion dog? The answer is that there is no legally established form, as there are no such certificates at the national level.
It was believed that a disability certificate issued by the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (CONAPDIS) could be used to show that he is a companion dog, but this is not appropriate from the point of view of the Principle of Legality. A disability certificate is a document that proves the existence of a disability and is used to benefit from optional social, health, employment, transportation, education or other regulated services (KHK 40727- MP- MTSS third article), nothing more. Therefore, it cannot be compared with a document that certifies or confirms that the dog with whom the disabled person is with him is a properly trained companion dog. In addition to this clarification, it should be emphasized that this documentation is optional and cannot be requested to avoid preferring the services for which it was created.
However, these explanations are not included in national legislation. Likewise, it does not go into the different types of service animals and which animals should be allowed free access when assisting a person with a disability; In addition to the conditions of a logical nature, which the Constitutional Chamber additionally stated, the health and behavior requirements that must be met.
What this causes is the vulnerability of the parties involved. In other words, there is no way for the disabled person to prove that the accompanying animal is a companion dog and not a therapy or emotional support dog, as there is no legal certification to do so in the country. And on the other side of the coin, we find ourselves with the owner of, say, a commercial place who has no formal process to verify that the dog accompanying the disabled person is actually getting health. and training requirements are necessary in such a way that they do not cause disturbances in the venue. It makes it difficult to distinguish between assistance dogs and emotional support animals.
Legal norms are always one step (a few steps) behind social needs. As we are a changing society, the legal world needs to be constantly updated to protect all relevant legal assets. This “legal backwardness” is more pronounced in some areas than others, such as the computer legislation field. However, while the issue of disability is not new, it is clear that its legal framework (old data) urgently needs reforms in order to be effectively implemented.
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