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GAO honors King request on service animals

By Staff | Jan 3, 2021

The Estherville city council has been grappling with the issue of its current ban on pit bull-type dogs in the city after several residents have defended their emotional support animals from the ban with one of those winning a lawsuit and financial settlement against the city. A committee working on the issue has developed proposed non-breed-specific legislation or an expansion of breeds that would require extra intervention by the owners to remain in city limits. In October, 2020, the council held a work session to discuss ordinances relating to vicious, potentially dangerous and dangerous animals with one resident sharing his personal experience. The council has not yet finalized an ordinance. An earlier step in the process of revising the animal ordinances happened in April, 2019 when the council sent a letter to President Trump requesting clarification on whether the U.S. Fair Housing Act requires the accommodation of emotional support animals as a civil right of a person who uses one, or if only service animals are required to be accommodated in public settings under the Act. City attorney Jennifer Bennett Finn has stated in meetings regarding the animal ordinance that a service animal is one specifically trained to perform a task that helps a person with a disability or alleviates that disability. Emotional support animals can be important to the mental health of a person who has one, but is not trained to perform a specific task. U.S. Representative Steve King’s office had recommended the council write to the President regarding the clarification. Meanwhile, King also requested a legal decision from the Government Accountability Office. The GAO issued its decision December 17. Thomas H. Armstrong, general counsel of the GAO, said the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a revision of a document it had issued about handling requests to have an animal as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability under the Fair Housing Act.Armstrong said, “Specifically, the Reasonable Accommodation Guidance states: ‘Assistance animals are not pets. They are animals that do work, perform tasks, assist, and/or provide therapeutic emotional sup-port for individuals with dis-abilities.'”The guidance from HUD provides a step-by-step guide on how to determine if an animal qualifies as an assistance animal and if a reasonable accommodation should be granted. The Estherville News will have further reporting on the animal ordinance as it progresses. In addition to announcing the service animal bill, King introduced a comprehensive bill he called “The Refurbishing the Pillars of American Exceptionalism Act,” amending and improving, King said, Federal law in the areas of immigration, health care the Constitution, educa-=tion, trade, Veterans affairs, welfare and taxation. The Act includes the Heartbeat Bill, a Birthright Citizenship Act, an English Language Unity Act, an effort to re-peal the Affordable Care Act, Sarah’s Law, relating to immigration and crime, the Protect American IPR Act, the New IDEA (Illegal De-=duction Elimination Act) the Census Accuracy Act, and American Future Healthcare Act, the Fair Tax, repealing the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (giving Congress the power to collect income tax), and an act nullifying the 2019 impeachment of President Trump. Rep. King’s last day in Congress is Wednesday, January 6 as new congressman Randy Feenstra of Hull will be sworn in that day. King is seeking a new puvlisher for his book about his experiences in Congress and is developing an organization to promote the contributions of Western Civilization. Rep. King said in a statement, “From the start of my service in elected office, I committed to my constituents that I would work tirelessly for them and stay true to my principles,” said King. “This legislation is a capstone of my legislative work to make good on those promises to my constituents, while always simultaneously endeavoring to refurbish the pillars of American Exceptionalism.”