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Service Dogs at Work Could Become the Norm

The Hillsborough County Commission is considering mandating that employers allow their workers to bring the dogs to the workplace.

Hillsborough County Commissioners are taking steps to ensure people with disabilities are able to bring their service dogs to work.

Currently the American Disabilities Act does allow service dogs in the workplace for people who need them because of a disability. However, it allows some flexibility on behalf of the employer, in regards to whom they deem should have the dogs at work, said Sandra Sroka, ADA coordinator and acting HIPPA compliance officer for the county.

"I think what the citizen is looking for and what we’re trying to explore is a more stringent interpretation where employers would probably have to have good cause or good reason not to allow the dogs," Sroka said.

The Hillsborough County Commission discussed the issue at its meeting last week. The board directed staff to study what language they'd need to add to county and state ADA statutes to ensure employees with service dogs are protected when it comes to the workplace.

Cesar Silva, a disabled veteran who has post traumatic stress disorder, spoke to the board at last week's meeting about the need for service dogs in the workplace especially for veterans like himself.

"This will allow disabled veterans to have animals in the workplace to help them maintain gainful employment," Silva said. "As a result we can live productive lives in our communities."

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Sroka said county attorneys were working on language they could add to the county's legislative package that would be taken to Tallahassee during the Florida Legislation Session, which begins in March. Their hope is that the legislature passes the measure.

Westchase residents sounded off on the issue on Westchase Patch's Facebook Page. Here's what they had to say:

AnnaMarie Cesiro wrote, "Everyone should be allowed the opportunity to work- regardless of their disabilities. I hope this is approved. I think it would be wonderful!"

Melina Haeussler Byers wrote, "Of course! If you need a service dog to function, why wouldn't you allow them? The only thing I could think of is if a co-worker was highly allergic, but I'd imagine something could be worked out. Better to be working than disabled."

Kelli Harrison wrote, "I think that is wonderful! I worked with someone who had a service dog couldn't imagine him without his dog!"

Do you think the county should madate that service dogs be allowed in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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