Council approves service animals ordinance
Councilman Blewett vows to repeal if ordinance leads to lawsuits against local businesses
The American with Disabilities Act will become more restrictive in its definition of service animals this month, but the changes won’t apply in Hesperia.
At their meeting Tuesday night, the Hesperia City Council voted to allow any sort of service animal to be used by the disabled in Hesperia public buildings and businesses, so long as they’re accompanied by a doctor’s note certifying their status as service animals.
On March 15, new federal guidelines will tighten the definition of service animals in the ADA to just dogs. The act was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in July 1990 and never previously defined what constituted a service animal.
The city ordinance was drafted in response to a request from local resident Danni Moore, who uses two rats riding on her shoulders to help control her seizures.
“All I ask is that the city council allows me to continue to come to pay my bills [at city hall] and volunteer at the library,” Moore told the council on Tuesday.
Disabled residents “have a right to be a person, to go to a store, to go to a restaurant,” argued resident Kim Jones. “There are some things that [service] dogs can just not do.”
But not everyone agreed with Jones.
“The needs of the many have to outweigh the needs of the few,” said Councilman Bill Holland. “It unnecessarily places Hesperia’s businesses, which quite frankly pay our way, in harm’s way.”
“If I end up in a lawsuit over this, I’ll move my business out of the city, I’ll be real honest with you,” said Century 21 owner Don Jensen, the brother of planning commissioner Bill Jensen.
The ADA “hasn’t affected Hesperia’s businesses for the past 20, 50 years,” said Councilman Thurston “Smitty” Smith, “And this doesn’t change anything.”
“I’ve never seen a service animal other than a dog in a restaurant other than one time in Mexico,” said Mayor Pro Tem Russ Blewett. “We have 18 percent of the people in this community unemployed, and we’re talking about service animals.”
The ordinance passed 4-0, with Holland dissenting. Although he voted in favor of the measure, Blewett said he’d vote to repeal it if any business is sued under the city ordinance.
The next regular meeting of the Hesperia City Council will take place on March 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Hesperia City Hall, 9700 Seventh Avenue.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.