Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Bonnet Macaque Named Richard

Here in southwest Missouri, mainly in the city of Springfield, there has been an ongoing dispute about the nature of a service animal. Today a federal district judge ruled that a Macaque monkey is not a service animal in relation to a person with agoraphobia and anxiety disorder who desires to move about unrestricted in the public forum.

The local county health department was involved early on when the person made several attempts to take the monkey into restaurants. Another defendant in the court action was one of the two primary health care providers in the region, CoxHealth.

The news report is somewhat ambivalent in that there's no clear indication that a monkey cannot be recognized as a service animal under any circumstances. The dismissal of the suit seems to rest on the idea that the plaintiff was not disabled as established by law.

In her lawsuit, Rose claimed Richard is a service animal because he helps her deal with agoraphobia and anxiety disorder.


But the judge ruled that although Rose claimed to suffer from the disorders since the 1970s, she married three times, had children and worked at a variety of jobs and was not diagnosed until 2006.
The story in the Springfield News-Leader can be read at this link. Below the story are several comments, mostly derogatory personal attacks against the woman claiming disability.

Monkeys, of course, have been used as service animals for several decades, mostly in-home and to carry out physical chores for people with mobility disabilities. The plaintiff in this case apparently uses the monkey (the service animal) as psychological support.

Granting that her disability is real and that the monkey allows her to cope with it in some respect -- or to state it this way: that the monkey is a service animal meant to compensate for disability -- I am not sure that the animal should be allowed in facilities where food is served or in other places where transmission of bacteria or viruses might adversely influence a critical environment.

This monkey may be a descendant of a line of tamed ancestors, but it is a creature that can transmit disease more easily to humans than the standard service animal (dogs). The situation is made worse because tamed monkeys are so rare within the general population that people have not built up a lifetime of tolerance as they have with domesticated animals.

I'll not judge the woman's sincerity. I will say were I in need of a monkey as a service animal I think I would choose not to take it into public venues.
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