Animals in the Library Policy

The Shepherdstown Public Library (SPL) recognizes that some patrons may have service animals, which are trained to assist or accommodate a person with a sensory, mental, or physical disability or to perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. SPL recognizes legal rights under applicable federal and state laws regarding use of service animals. SPL also considers the safety and health of all of its patrons, the public, and library staff to be of utmost priority.

  • Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog (or miniature horse) that has been trained to perform disability-related tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. In addition to hearing dogs and guide dogs, service animals that must be allowed into public accommodations under the ADA include:
    • seizure alert animals, which let their handlers know of impending seizures, and may also guard their handlers during seizure activity,
    • allergen alert animals, which let their handlers know of foods or other substances that could be dangerous (such as peanuts), and
    • psychiatric service animals, which can help their handlers manage menta land emotional disabilities by reminding handlers to take medication, checking spaces for intruders, or providing calming pressure during panic attacks.
  • West Virginia’s White Cane Law defines a service animal as a guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to perform work or tasks for someone with a physical or mental disability. The law lists the following as examples of tasks a service animal might perform:
    • guiding those with visual impairments
    • alerting those with hearing impairments to intruders or other sounds
    • pulling a wheelchair
    • fetching dropped items, or
    • providing minimal rescue or protection work.
  • Neither the ADA nor West Virginia law includes what some people call “emotional support animals”: animals that provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to those with psychiatric or emotional conditions. Although these animals often have therapeutic benefits, they are not individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers. Under the ADA and West Virginia law, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals.

Rules for Your Service Animal

  • Under the ADA, a public accommodation may not ask you questions about your disability or demand to see certification, identification, or other proof of your animal’s training or status. If it is not apparent what your service animal does, the establishment may ask you only whether it is a service animal, and what tasks it performs for you.
  • West Virginia’s White Cane Law specifically says that a service animal need not be licensed or certified by the government. Your service animal also need not have any particular sign or label. It must be on leash while on a common carrier like a bus, and it may not take up a seat on public transportation.
  • The ADA and West Virginia law both prohibit public accommodations from charging a special admission fee or requiring you to pay any other extra cost to have your service animal with you. However, you may have to pay for any damage your animal causes. West Virginia law creates an exception to this rule: You are not liable for damage done by your service animal to someone (or that person’s property) who provokes or incites your animal to cause damage.
  • The ADA allows a public accommodation to exclude your service animal if it poses a direct threat to health and safety (or example, if your dog is aggressively barking and snapping at other customers, the facility can bar the dog from entering). Your animal may also be excluded if it is not housebroken, or if it is out of control and you are unable or unwilling to effectively control it. You are still entitled to enter the public accommodation even if your service animal is not allowed in.

Shepherdstown Public Library Policy Regarding Dogs and Other Animals in the Library

Due to the nature of young children and the unpredictability of animal behavior when interacting with them, the safety of our youngest patrons is of paramount importance and therefore non-service dogs and other animals are not allowed inside the library and must remain outside. We have a dog tie-up hook for your convenience.

Exemptions from the Policy

Animals that are brought to the library for an educational or reading program and are under full control of the owner(s) are allowed in the library with prior agreement.

ESA (Emotional Support Animals) Public Accommodation Laws in West Virginia

The White Cane Law allows those with service animals access to the majority of public accommodations, but it does not allow emotional support animal owners the same opportunity. Therefore, an ESA letter does not protect you and your ESA from not being allowed access to a range of public places, including:

  • Restaurants
  • Hospitals
  • Hotels/Motels
  • Parks
  • Libraries

Of course, the above list is only an example, and there are numerous other public accommodations that have the right to not allow emotional support animals. That being said, many public places accept emotional support animals as long as they have advanced notice. If you need to take your ESA with you to a restaurant, library, or other public place, then contact the establishment before going to see if they will allow your pet. Consider doing more research and finding a place that allows for emotional support animals, such as a pet-friendly hotel or a park that allows dogs.

If you have a service animal and not an emotional support animal, then it is protected under the White Cane Law in West Virginia against discrimination from public establishments. While they may ask if it is a service animal, they are not allowed to deny  you or your pet access if you have a service animal registration.

For both service animals and emotional support animals, the public place may have the right to deny access if the pet is disruptive, aggressive or may cause damage of any kind. The owner is also responsible for any damages the pet causes, regardless of whether it is a service animal or an emotional support animal