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Compliance: Gotta See a Man About a Dog...
Monday, July 31, 2017 6:40 AM

Written by Steve Gibbs, AVP Shared Compliance, Credit Union Resources

With all the “hot” Federal regulations surrounding BSA, OFAC, Member/Business due diligence, not to mention anything related to “Dodd-Frank”, it’s no wonder that (I’ve heard this hundreds of times) “we’re going to the dogs” with all these policies. Until a month ago, I didn’t realize how true a prophecy this would be!

In the early part of this summer, one of our Shared Compliance team members was asked to develop a policy addressing animals (specifically dogs) being brought into a credit union during business hours. My mind immediately picked up thoughts of beautiful German Shepherds and Labs doing the valiant work of protecting and guiding those individuals who have special needs with regard to sight, or other physical challenges which these dogs can sense.  What I discovered was something completely different!  Stories more attuned to “Dogs Gone Wild”. One story related concerned a dog who decided to get aggressive with a teller handing its owner money (thinking this was threatening).  Another tale (or “tail” as the dog wags!) was regarding a dog apparently skittish in public places and approached by several well-meaning members who discovered the dog’s impulse to growl and snap when engaged.  Service dogs?  Absolutely not! The CEO of this credit union decided that it was time to invoke “the big book” of policies, finding nothing there to address this canine conundrum. Like the “Bat-Signal”, the beacon went out for “Captain Compliance” to save the day.  Time to review the  American With Disabilities Act (ADA), Opinion No. 13-59, “Admission of Service Dogs in Places of Public Accommodation.”

According to the ADA, a “service animal” means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button. Examples of animals that fit the ADA’s definition of “service animal” because they have been specifically trained to perform a task for the person with a disability include:

  • Guide Dog or Seeing Eye® Dog.
  • Hearing or Signal Dog.
  • Psychiatric Service Dog.
  • SSigDOG (sensory signal dogs or social signal dog).
  • Seizure Response Dog.

Titles II and III of the ADA clarify that service animals are allowed in public facilities and accommodations. Although this is a requirement, dogs who are clearly out of control, displaying disruptive (ex., barking) or aggressive behavior can be barred from entering the building for the safety of other members and staff.  You should also be aware that you cannot ask for documentation or proof that an animal is a “service animal” as defined by the ADA.  Ultimately, the credit union has responsibility for creating policies to protect both members and staff. 

I must add that I’m a fan of our “furry friends” and hold no animosity toward persons who like their company when running errands. You’ve never hear of any joke that starts off with, “A man brings a dog into a credit union….”, and there’s likely some sound reasoning in that.

On a slightly different note, another credit union officer advised that a member was being served and as the teller took his money was surprised by a boa constrictor which decided to make an appearance from the member’s shirt.  Although this was easily disqualified as a “service animal”, we also determined that no new policy was necessary as snakes were not one of the Prohibited Classes under Regulation B and that our member could be served, not the snake. 

In closing, I have to give partial credit for this venture into the “wild” side of policies to Shared Compliance Specialist Kerry Sheehan.  When she emailed that she was sending me a real “dog” policy to review…. well you can just imagine...