This article originally appeared on VICE US
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has strict guidelines about what can and cannot be considered a service animal. For starters, it has to be a dog or a miniature horse, and it has to have been trained to do a job or perform a task that directly relates to its handler's disability. The agency also distinguishes between service animals and emotional support animals, which have not undergone the same kind of training, and may not always be accommodated in public places the way that service animals are.
All that said, a beehive shouldn't be a dang service animal––and David Keller knows it. According to AZFamily.com, Keller thought that it was getting "too easy" to register a service animal, and he decided to prove it. The Prescott Valley, Arizona man went to a totally legit sounding website called USAServiceDogRegistration.com, uploaded a photo of a beehive, and registered it as a service animal. (It's also worth noting that Keller doesn't own or care for said beehive.)
"[I wanted to] bring awareness to the issue that anyone could do this," he told the outlet. He said that he was inspired to register his own Service Hive after he saw a service dog misbehaving in a parking lot.
The ADA specifically requires that any service dog is under the handler's control at all times. "Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place," the agency writes, as an example. "However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control."
Keller said that he hopes that his beehive helps to make his point: that it can be too easy to get a meaningless "certification" for a service dog. "It's making people believe all animals are service animals when they're not," he said. "And there's a clear difference."
The ADA specifically calls out websites like USAServiceDogRegistration dot com, and it basically says they're crap. "There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online," it explains. "These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal." (The ADA also doesn't require any kind of registration or documentation for a service dog––and businesses cannot ask a service dog's handler to provide it.)
Earlier this year, a New York City restaurant owner was ordered to pay $64,000 in fines and damages after refusing to seat a man whose service dog accompanied him into the restaurant. Henry Goldstein said that the waiter at Limon Jungle asked for his dog's "papers," among other questions. After being turned away, Goldstein filed a complaint with the city's Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) and with the Commission on Human Rights.
OATH Judge John B. Spooner ruled in his favor, ordering Limon Jungle's owner Besim Kukaj to pay Goldstein $14,000 in damages, and $28,000 in fines to the city. That fine jumped to $50,000 after it was revealed that another of Kukaj's restaurants said that it would not allow a service dog to accompany its owner to a private party.
If Keller wants to treat his service beehive to a nice lunch, maybe that's a good place to start.