New service animal policy coming to the Smokies

New service animal policy coming to the Smokies

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Pets are only allowed in limited areas of the Smokies, including two trails. But officials say some visitors try to bend the rules. Pets are only allowed in limited areas of the Smokies, including two trails. But officials say some visitors try to bend the rules.
"If they have a service animal we just ask is it providing a service, but we don't ask what disability they have or push that issue any further," said park spokeswoman Dana Soehn. "If they have a service animal we just ask is it providing a service, but we don't ask what disability they have or push that issue any further," said park spokeswoman Dana Soehn.
By KAYLA STRAYER
6 News Reporter


SEVIER COUNTY (WATE) - If you want to visit the Smokies, make sure you know what kind of guests you can bring along.

National park policies are changing to better define what qualifies as a service animal.

Pets are only allowed in limited areas of the Smokies, including two trails. But officials say some visitors try to bend the rules.

"If they have a service animal we just ask is it providing a service, but we don't ask what disability they have or push that issue any further," said park spokeswoman Dana Soehn.

Under the new rules, Soehn says officials will be able to ask exactly what service the animal provides.

"It's part of our job at the national park service to protect our wildlife and resources, and it's often hard to make those limits when you're dealing with a variety of pets. They may or may not be service animals. These new regulations are going to both better accommodate the people that rely on these animals, and also define what a service animal is," Soehn said. 

Some hikers think the changes will help enforce the no pet policy.

"If they come to the park, I would hope that they abide by the rules of the park," Martin Berg said.

"I understand dogs are family, and things like that but sometimes it's not the time or place," Rob Newell said.

"It's not always appropriate to bring your animals," Brittany Newell added.

The national parks are accepting public comment on the changes until June 17th. Officials aren't sure exactly when the changes will take place.

The new policy allows for dogs and even miniature horses to qualify as a service animal.

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