Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Another service dog user raps transit

Another service dog user raps transit

August 29, 2012 - 4:02am By CLARE MELLOR Staff Reporter

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Service dog provides crucial companionship

Service dog provides crucial companionship

First posted: | Updated:
Alex Mertens and Kasper the service dog
BRAGG CREEK - Alex Mertens gently tells Kasper, a purebred yellow Labrador, to come visit and the dog rests his chin on her lap.

“Visit” may be a simple word, but not for the two-year-old service dog and certainly not for Alex, 13, a quadriplegic also coping with epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
It’s the command word that signals the working dog should be up for a new task, says mom Carol Mertens.
“When she says visit, he puts his head right in her lap,” explains the mom of triplets, one of whom is Alex.
“That gets him going, knowing it’s OK for him to drop things on her lap.”
Alex needs Kasper’s assistance to open doors, pull her wheelchair for short distances, push elevator buttons, retrieve objects and bark to family if she needs more help.
With Kasper around, Alex has a new buddy to push the handicap-access door openers, turn off light switches, remove sweaters or socks and turn her over in bed at night.
In ordinary parlance, the word “visit” may also mean a temporary encounter, but Kasper isn’t just visiting Alex.
The graduate of the non-profit Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society is expected to be with the girl for the rest of his working life.
Michael Mertens, who takes comfort his daughter now has a new companion, estimates the pooch will be with Alex for at least 10 years.
“I absolutely love that dog. It is such a nice, well-behaved dog,” says the dad as he watches his three girls play with the pooch.
“I’m so impressed by the training they had done. It fits so perfectly to the family.”
Michael says he’s so thrilled his daughter has a companion to develop and grow with her.
“It just gives her a lot of independence and gives her a lot of confidence, especially if she’s alone,” he said.
Kasper, who was introduced to the family July 29, has already greatly changed the girl’s quality of life.
Michael says due to his daughter’s condition, Alex uses all sorts of “surrogate forms of companionship,” such as a TV left on while the girl works on something.
With Kasper being around, that won’t be necessary, says the dad, who accepts Alex is going to need care 24-7.
“You sort of have to go with the flow in this kind of situation,” he says.
“But I feel a lot better going with the flow with Kasper in the picture, in that there’s somebody else to help her.”
• • •
Sam and Katie are Alex’s adoring triplet sisters.
The day their mom announced Kasper would finally become part of the Mertens’ household, they jumped with joy.
Sam says they were all surprised.
“Mom got off the phone and said ‘Guess what? I have the greatest news in the world.’
“Alex was screaming. Finally she’s getting her dog!
“We were all so excited and thinking what we’re going to do the first day we get him.”
Alex chimes in, confirming how excited she was: “I started screaming.
“I had a dream of doing a dance with him and I did it,” says Alex, who attends a ballet school for special-needs kids.
With the help of her sisters, who train at a Calgary dance studio, Alex choreographed a routine with Kasper, which she presented in a gala with Dogs with Wings.
Katie says what interested her at first was how the dog was going to react to their 17-year-old cat, Calvin, who during filming of a video interview caught everyone’s attention by coughing loudly, leaving everyone roaring.
Katie says when Calvin sees Kasper, he hisses, but the service dog just ignores him.
• • •
Acquiring Kasper was a patience-testing, five-year process for the Mertens.
Carol says they met Dogs with Wings at a fair sponsored by the Cerebral Palsy Association of Calgary in 2008.
Alex and family were then evaluated by the group.
Carol says officials came several times, making sure her family would be responsible for Kasper’s health and well-being and they would be willing and able to follow the protocols set up for maintaining the pooch’s service.
One of the many protocols is to keep Kasper’s weight at 60-65 lbs., which means he can’t be fed human food.
“We have to weigh him every month and send in his weight for the first year to make sure that he doesn’t gain anything,” says Carol.
“They just want optimal health for him.”
Kasper weighs 61 lbs. and although the girls are tempted to give him treats, they just shower him with love.
• • •
Although Kasper came to the family ready to work, his trainer stayed with the Mertens for three weeks to let them in on the secrets of how to make the pooch work.
Kasper must wear a jacket with the organization’s name and logo while he’s working.
Carol says Alex’s assistant is extremely intelligent.
“As soon as you hold up his jacket, he’s like, ‘I’m ready. Let’s go!’ It’s almost like he’s telling us we aren’t challenging him enough. It’s really funny.”
While the dog is on duty he doesn’t play.
The Mertens say it can be challenging when they’re out with the adorable dog.
Recently, while shopping, somebody they know spotted Alex and Kasper.
The fellow came up and chatted, which led to an attempt at patting the pooch, which was on duty.
Alex says she politely told the man Kasper is a working dog and not to be patted.
“ ‘I’m so sorry, he’s a working dog and he’s got a service dog jacket on’ and then they understand,” she says.
Like any working dog, Kasper gets to play, but his jacket must be off and he must be told another magic word.
“Release” is the command that tells Kasper he’s off duty and is allowed to play.
• • •
Paula Bildfell, co-ordinator of the newly established Calgary branch of Dogs with Wings, says there’s a long wait-list of potential clients.
More than 40 people from across the province are on the roster that keeps growing.
The wait for a dog is typically two to three years and Bildfell says it’s difficult to tell people about the wait-time.
“They’re hoping for independence and it’s hard to wait for that,” she says.
It is a complicated process of matching a dog with the specific needs of a patient.
Some dogs are good at guiding and helping the blind, others are best paired with an autism patient, while some are best with helping wheelchair-bound kids.
The group recently opened a branch in Calgary, fuelled by a need across Alberta.
And as the demand grows, the need for volunteers who raise the pups to become working dogs also increases.
“We need more volunteers to raise the puppies. They are having difficulties finding foster homes,” says Bildfell.
Raising puppies is not an easy task, she says.
“You take a puppy for a year. You do so much with that puppy and then at the end of the year you have to give the dog back,” she says.
• • •
Towards the end of the hour-long interview, Alex releases Kasper from duty by removing his jacket and uttering the magic word, “release”.
He immediately sheds his focused demeanour and turns into a playful creature.
The girls chase him in the family’s spacious front yard, where a swing and a volleyball net were set up.
As the triplets play with Kasper, their parents watch and reiterate what they hope for Alex in the future.
They say they just want their daughter to gain more independence.
Alex says early on in the interview that with Kasper around, she’s looking forward to many outings on her own.
“I hope to go places independently like the movies or the mall, stores and stuff like that,” she says.
Now, she can do that, with her new best friend and the command words they both know retain their magical powers.
On Twitter: @SUNRenatoGandia
• • •

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hasty: Service dog's role still isn't understood

Katharine Royal wants to remind local business owners to be sensitive to those who rely on service dogs.
Royal, who was born with spina bifida and also suffers from bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder, relies on the services of Isaiah, a gentle service dog who wears a red identification vest in public.
She and her husband Micah were eating at a local restaurant recently when the manager approached her to tell her some of the other customers were uncomfortable about the dog at her feet.
"Which was kind of strange,'' Micah Royal said, "because everyone was friendly toward him.''
According to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, not only are service animals allowed to accompany their owners in all public places, but the animals and their users cannot be isolated from other patrons.
And the Royals point out that just because the need for a service dog isn't always obvious, that doesn't mean the dog isn't important.
"People need to understand,'' Katharine Royal said, "that the majority of the population is not going to take a random house pet into a restaurant.''
No service dog could have been more loved than Devon, the Bernese mountain dog who was the mascot of Mira Foundation USA, the organization that matches service dogs with vision-impaired children.
Devon, the constant companion of Mira USA founder Bob Baillie, died Aug. 2 just two days after being diagnosed with bone cancer.
"My best buddy,'' Baillie said when the two made an appearance at the Fayetteville Kiwanis Club's May meeting.
Those in attendance that day will remember Devon's gentleness as he sat watchfully at Baillie's side.
Retired Superior Court Judge Maurice Braswell had the time of his life recently during the 42nd annual reunion in New Bern of the Association of Former Prisoners of War in Romania Inc.
For the first time, and thanks to some help from Braswell and his family who served as hosts, the event was held in the Southeast, on Aug. 3 and 4. Sixty-one people attended.
The weekend included a screening of "Paying the Price,'' a musical written by Braswell's son. Mark Walter Braswell wrote the play after reading his father's book, "Flaming Arrow: WWII as seen from a B-17.''
The play, which depicts Maurice Braswell's experiences as an injured tail gunner imprisoned in a POW camp in Bucharest, debuted in 2003 at the National Theater in Washington.
The Cape Fear Regional Theatre co-produced the show and provided the actors when the play was performed in Fayetteville in 2004 in the Airborne & Special Operations Museum.
Nine years after it was first performed, "Paying the Price'' still draws a crowd, as it did at New Bern's Christ Church Ministry Center.
"The crowd ate it up,'' Maurice Braswell, 89, said, "including me.''
Community news editor Kim Hasty can be reached at or 486-3591.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Service Dogs need to be allowed in churches

It was my hope to attend the open house of the new Brigham City Temple; however, because I rely on a service dog I’m barred from the event. If this were an isolated incident, I would probably let it slide. I’m sad to say that it is not. When I first moved to Ogden last year, I wanted to attend Sacrament Meeting at my ward, but the bishop told me I could not bring my dog to the church because she would be "disruptive to the children." It is not my responsibility to control the behavior of other people’s children. If they are unable to control their kids, take them out of the chapel.
In both of the incidents, "alternatives" were offered which included use of a wheelchair. What people do not realize is that people who employ service animals rely on them not only for assistance, they also provide us with autonomy which would otherwise be missing in our lives. While well intentioned, the "offer" of denying us this autonomy is condescending and insulting to our dignity. Not only this, but there are some services which a human simply is unable to perform such as alerting an epileptic of a coming seizure. These animals are trained to be our constant companions over many years; in the case of, me and my dog, we’ve been together since she was two months old, 13 years ago.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Irish guide dog charity providing dogs to children with autism

ONE OF Ireland’s best-known charities has stopped accepting applications for assistance dogs from families of children with autism.

The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind (IGDFTB) made the decision after the waiting list grew to five years.

The client services manager at the Cork-based charity, Deirdre Moriarty, said it had insufficient funding to deal with the growing number of families seeking assistance dogs, resulting in the lengthening of waiting lists.

“It was an unacceptable situation. We train children up to the age of 10 to take on the dogs and, with the length of the list, it was resulting in children being over-age before they could receive a dog, so it couldn’t continue,” she said. “It is unfortunate, but we had to make a decision.”
IGDFTB – whose patrons include the former Irish soccer captain Roy Keane – provides the service free of charge. It was the first charity in Europe to provide assistance dogs to children with autism. It costs €38,000 to train each dog. To date, the charity has trained 224 and will train another 41 this year – at a cost of €1.5 million.

The decision to close down the waiting list follows a decrease in the IGDFTB’s income last year of 3 per cent, from €4.2 million to €4 million. Chief executive Padraig Mallon said the charity did not receive any State funding to provide the service.

Ms Moriarty said any plan to reopen the list “is not under discussion currently”. She said the waiting list had now been reduced to three years.

She said that, of the 224 trained working assistance dogs, 186 were working at the moment. The waiting list currently stands at 143.

The Cassidy family in Ennis took a cross-Labrador, Demi, to assist their now 11-year-old son, Darragh, who has autism, in October 2009 after being two years on the waiting list.

Darragh’s father, Frank, recalled the family’s first visit to the Guide Dogs Centre in Cork.
“Darragh was very excited and was so joyful around the dogs. It was very emotional,” he said. He added that Demi has had “a very positive impact” on Darragh and the family as a whole.
Darragh’s mother, Angela, said: “In stressful situations, Demi relaxes Darragh. Darragh is non-verbal, but he does seem to have built a connection with Demi. It has been very positive.”
Ms Moriarty said assistance dogs “have saved lives” among the children they serve. “There is no science behind the impact the dogs have on the children, but the primary reason they assist the children is safety.”

She said some children with autism could be “bolters” and the dogs were purpose trained to stop them running off.

Dog takes a ride in Ingles cart

I don’t know about you, but I sure could go for a thunderstorm.
They’ve been so far and few between this summer. Please, fall, come early this year.
Of course, I never tire of your burning questions. Let’s get to them, along with my smart-aleck responses and the real deal.

Question: Over the last year, I have witnessed a dog riding in a shopping cart at a local grocery store. The first time I mentioned it to the manager, he said he would take care of it. A few months later it happened again, and the manager apologized and said he would take care of it. The third time it happened, the manager said he thought it was a service dog, so they had to allow it. Is this true? I have no problem with service dogs being in places that other dogs are not allowed, but to allow one to sit in a grocery cart where people put their food seems unsanitary. If it is true, then perhaps the store should designate a cart for this lady and her dog.

My answer: Call me crazy, but I worry more about what the people leave behind in the carts. Seriously, you ever think about what’s in that toddler’s diaper? The one who was just sitting on the little plastic platform your bananas are sitting on? You’re welcome ...
Real answer: After further prodding, I found out this was occurring at the Ingles in the Reynolds community.

Ingles Markets Chief Financial Officer Ron Freeman checked into it.
“Service animals are very important to the individuals who use them, and we want to be as helpful as possible,” Freeman said. “We are making arrangements to have a specific buggy for this person to use so there is no confusion in the future.”

Original Article

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dog is Lorri Riddle’s co-pilot

TWIN FALLS • Dog is Lorri Riddle’s co-pilot.
Riddle has been blind for 22 years, and a walk in downtown Twin Falls would not be possible without her service dog of five years, Blanchett. Riddle can motion to Blanchett to enter any of the stores, and both dog and owner can peruse shelves together or sit at a restaurant.

The Americans with Disabilities Act gives service dogs such as Blanchett the right to enter public buildings, but in Magic Valley the difference between companion animals, service dogs and pets is often misunderstood — or ignored. No, your companion animal can’t go everywhere that Blanchett is allowed, even if you believe the animal’s presence is important to your well-being.

“We are experiencing more people, not just in Idaho, people who bring their pets into the store,” said Marsha Gilford, vice president of public affairs for Smith’s Food and Drug Stores based in Salt Lake City. “They want to put them in the seats of the cart or in their jacket, and it’s not appropriate.”
But the company’s doors are always open to service animals, and Gilford said Smith’s will give the owner-and-dog teams assistance locating or retrieving certain items. “We’re happy to provide additional service to help them shop.”

On Duty
Blanchett loves to be petted, especially on her belly, her light tan tail swinging. She also loves treats and eagerly gobbles them from Riddle’s outstretched palm. But once the brown leather harness stamped with the words “Guide Dogs for the Blind” is back on, she is all business as she calmly guides Riddle over uneven sidewalks and curbs. Riddle does not allow people to pet Blanchett when she is wearing the harness because she is not a pet, but a dog with a job.

“It’s like flipping a switch, she’s ready for work,” Riddle said.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice recognized only dogs — and some miniature horses — as service animals under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A service animal is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability — like Blanchett is.
Service dogs may guide people who are blind, but they also perform other duties such as alerting people who are deaf, or calming a person with post traumatic stress disorder during an anxiety attack.
Blanchett is Riddle’s third service dog and was trained at the Guide Dogs for the Blind School in San Rafael, Calif. Though there is no Idaho requirement for Riddle to have tags that identify Blanchett as a service dog, she carries around several tags and papers that do anyway.

“Some have vests, but it is not required,” said Dina Flores-Brewer, advocacy director for Disability Rights Idaho.

Under the ADA, state and local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all public areas.
In stores or restaurants, Flores-Brewer said, there are few questions that managers or owners are allowed to ask: Is this a service animal? What work or task has it been trained to do? They may not ask about the person’s disability or ask to see documentation or to watch the dog perform its task.
Riddle said she has heard stories of people taking their pets into stores claiming they are service dogs. But Riddle said incidents like this only discredit the training and job that dogs like Blanchett perform.
“Tags are something that should be required,” Riddle said. “I still think the state should issue an odd-color tag to identify them.”

Judy Jones of Twin Falls, who is blind, also uses a guide dog and said handlers take pride in their dogs’ training and obedience.

“The dog is well-behaved and will lay down when asked to,” Jones said.
Even service dogs must always be under the owner’s control, and any damages are the owners’ responsibility. According to the ADA, if a service dog is disruptive it can be asked to be removed, but the owner must be able to continue shopping by another form of assistance.
So what about dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support?
They do not qualify as service animals under the ADA, and the law grants them no right to be in a store.

“Companion animals are not defined or covered under the ADA,” Flores-Brewer said.
So keep those dogs out of the coffee shop and the grocery aisles — unless the business chooses to welcome them.

“We are completely pet-friendly as long as they are not disruptive,” said Mo Black, owner of The Coffee Shop and Lunchbox Deli in Twin Falls. “We even give out lunch meat for treats.”

Woman’s Best Friend
At a downtown crosswalk, Riddle doesn’t immediately step out into the street because she is listening for the hum of engines and the crunch of tires over pavement. She waves the cars along, letting the drivers know they can pass through the intersection. Riddle will cross after the last vehicle drives away, when she knows for sure it’s safe to walk.

“People don’t always stop,” she says.

Riddle motions to Blanchett to cross the street, then uses the dog to steady herself as she steps down from the curb. Once they reach the other side, Blanchett guides Riddle up the high curb and to the sidewalk.

Riddle stops to feed Blanchett a treat for the safe crossing. The dog slurps up the jerky, her mouth in a grin, as they continue their stroll.

A Service Dog Wish Come True

It seemed impossibly cute, but mostly impossible, when Evan Moss, 7, wrote and illustrated a book last year called “My Seizure Dog." He wanted to raise $13,000 to buy a service dog to help with his severe epilepsy, and the book depicted all the great things he would do with such a dog. One example: Eat pizza.

Then, thanks to a remarkable outpouring of public support, he raised $45,000, enough to buy service dogs for himself and seven other people. Last month, Evan and his family traveled to Xenia, Ohio, to learn how to handle Mindy.

Mindy, their finely trained new dog, can detect seizures in advance and notify Evan and his family. She uses “machine-gun licking," as Evan calls it, to alert him that a seizure is imminent.

Now the Mosses are back in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, Va., with Mindy (and a second dog, Dinky, rescued earlier by Evan’s sister Aria). And the amazing journey of Evan, who has gone through more severe seizure episodes and emergency room visits than you can imagine, now enters a new phase. He is 8.

Evan was born with tuberous sclerosis complex, which caused him to have 300 to 400 short seizures a month as a small child. Brain surgery at 4 stopped the short seizures, but he began to have longer and more serious seizures.

His parents immersed themselves not only in the literature of epilepsy, but also the culture. Rob Moss created a remarkable free website called Seizure Tracker, which helps parents monitor and share data. He has since added a mobile app. Lisa Moss joined the board of the Epilepsy Foundation and is working full time for the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.

Rob and Lisa also learned about “seizure dogs," specially trained not only to alert the epileptic, particularly if he or she is sleeping, but to alert the parents if the person needs help.
The dogs can pick up a scent that provides warning that a seizure is coming as much as five hours before a grand mal seizure (20 minutes before a small seizure). They also can help navigate crowds and provide soothing support by placing their head in one’s lap.

Evan had the idea to write the book last year. He drew pictures of his imagined “seizure dog" sleeping with him and going on airplanes with him and dictated the text to his mother. She self-published the book, got it on and arranged for a book signing in July 2011 at Grounded Coffee, a nearby family hangout.

Shortly before the book signing, a story about Evan appeared in The Washington Post. And Post readers responded. The book signing was mobbed, with more than 600 people lined up to buy books. Folks came from as far away as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, some with service dogs of their own.
More than 400 copies of the book quickly sold for $10 apiece. Post readers sent numerous emails offering to help, the book shot to No. 1 on Amazon’s best-seller list of children’s health books and, within a week, Evan had raised $20,000.

People magazine flew Evan and his family to Ohio, to 4 Paws for Ability, which trains and raises the service dogs, and vets the families who receive one. The dogs cost $22,000 to train, and 4 Paws asks recipients to pay $13,000. Families launch fundraising drives that can last years, tracked by 4 Paws.
Last month, the Mosses returned to 4 Paws to pick up Mindy. After two days, they were instructed to take the dog back to their hotel, and by the fifth day, they were trying to deal with the distractions and bustle of a large shopping mall. Graduation was on Day 10.

There were eight other families being trained at the same time, Lisa Moss said, with recipients ranging in age from 5 to 21. Evan remembered them all and narrated his photo show of their dogs on his camera.

Mindy is a golden poodle, part golden retriever and part standard poodle. When Evan met her, she had pink bows in her hair. This was something of an outrage.
“I can’t believe she has bows in her hair," Evan recalled of their first moment together. “I’m a boy!"
But she’s a girl, I said.

“Still. She’s my dog."
His father handled the bulk of the training, with the focus for Evan more on bonding than the mechanics of obedience.
Mindy is just 11 months old and was trained for about five months before meeting Evan. She is friendly and calm, but when her service vest is snapped on, she becomes more upright and serious. She’s ready.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Myrtle Beach Family Denied Entrance with Service Dog

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A local family is speaking out after being refused service when they brought their Service Dog to dinner Thursday night.
The Campman family was heading out to Osaka Buffet to celebrate mom's birthday when they say they were stopped at the door by a manager. The manager asked if their service dog, Charlie, was a Seeing Eye Dog. Charlie is not a Seeing Eye Dog, but is a Service Dog.
Charlie is trained to signal when his owner may have a seizure.
"He is there to help break a fall, for comfort…I am very combative when I come to, he's there to keep me calm," explains Matt Campman, Charlie's owner.
Campman needs to have Charlie with him at all times, which is why the service animal was with the family for their dinner Thursday night. The Campman's say the staff at Osaka Buffet stopped the family on their way to the table and said if Charlie was not a Seeing Eye Dog, then he was not allowed in.
"There are dogs for so many different conditions, it's just frustrating that people aren't aware of that," says Campman.
The manager of Osaka Buffet says it is a misunderstanding. Since the restaurant has had complaints before, they require all service animals to stay in a side dining room, away from the open food at the buffet.
Advocates for Service Dogs say a licensed Service Animal is allowed anywhere public is allowed. Campman's wife says she explained to the staff that even though Charlie is not a Seeing Eye Dog he is allowed to enter under the law.
"We carry a card with Charlie's ID and his tasks and things that he does for Matt. So I pulled it out, but at that point we were obviously not going to stay," says Jackie Campman.
The family says the whole ordeal was frustrating and people were in line behind them, so they decided to leave.
"I felt really embarrassed…having my children have to feel that way. You know, how do they feel? Having to leave a restaurant because of me. Feeling like it's my fault," shares Campman.
The family is not looking for any financial gain, they say they want to share their story in order to spread awareness and educate other people.
Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

Ceremonial signing to celebrate a new Pennsylvania law benefitting service dogs was right in time for International Assistance Dog Week.
Along with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, the Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD) organization was a part of this event which took place at the Puppy Palace in the Harrisburg Mall.
Wednesdays’ face book page of Governor Tom Corbett states, ‘This morning Governor Corbett ceremonially signed House Bill 165, the service dog protection bill. The bill allows authorities to cite owners of dogs that attack service dogs and require them to pay veterinary bills or restitution for injuries or damage resulting from such attacks.’
This bill and now law, allows for dog owners to be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor and or restitution fine of up to $5,000 if their dog attacks a service dog and they had knowledge of the animal’s aggression, or if the animal had a history of attack and they recklessly failed to restrain or keep their dog away from the service dog.
The governor notes that guide dogs for the blind and other service dogs are trained not to fight back.
“They are trained only to serve the people to whom they are entrusted. That’s what makes doing harm to a service dog, in my opinion, one of the lowest forms of human behavior. Doing harm to any dog is a low form of behavior, but particularly to a service dog,” he said.
The passing of this bill recognizes the importance of service dogs and the extensive training that goes into a service dog to enable it to serve a person with disabilities.
With this being International Assistance Dog Week, the participation of Governor Corbett in celebrating the recently signed bill was a perfect part of the weeks’ commemorations to these wonderful and loyal service animals.
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Friday, August 10, 2012

The Oklahoma City Police were contacted when a woman stood up for her rights and the rights of her service dog when her service dog was denied entry to a local convenience store. The owner of the convenience store did not want the service dog inside the store.
KOKH-TV, Fox 25, in Oklahoma City, also reported on August 8 the police officer sided with the owner of the convenience store. The police officer asked the disabled woman and her service dog to leave the store.
A spokesperson for the Oklahoma City claims the Oklahoma City Police Department understands the laws set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) concerning service animals. They police department is currently ensuring their officers also understand those laws. The following is the complete statement issued by the Oklahoma City Police Department:

© 2012 NAVTEQ© 2012 Microsoft Corporation
Convenience J
35.49329 ; -97.609718

According to the ADA, “The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.” Those businesses any and all businesses that serve the public. That includes convenient stores.
The ADA states that a service dog is “any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.” The ADA goes even further by stating “animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.” The spokesperson, in the statement, inferred that that a service dog must be a “certified service animal.” That is clearly a violation of the ADA laws.
“People need to understand that service dogs come in all shapes and sizes and do all sorts of things,” Stephen Sutton, from Oklahoma City whose wife has a service dog, said. “They aren’t just large dogs for the seeing-impaired. Service dogs are trained to sense seizures, changes in blood sugar levels and even to alert their owners with peanut allergies to peanuts. They can be as small as Chihuahuas or as big as Irish Wolfhounds. Many of them are mixed breeds - even dogs rescued from animal shelters.”
Although employees and business owners, like the owner of the “Convenience J” convenience store, may be confused by what a service dog, there is no reason for this - if they familiarize themselves with the law. The ADA does not require the service dog wear special collars or harnesses. Business owners may not “insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.” If a person says the dog is a service dog, the business must allow entry. If the service dog behaves in an aggressive manner or destroys property, then the owner can be asked to remove the dog.
There are some places where service dogs are not allowed. These would include burn units and intensive care units in hospitals. However, these areas are not usually open to the general public.
“Business owners need to understand the law,” Sutton continued. “They can ask if it is a service dog. They can even ask what the service dog does for the person. Legally the person only has to say ‘things I can not do for myself’ and not go into details as to what needs the dog provides for the person. Asking for more details is a lot asking what medications a person takes and what the medications are for.”
The ADA also states that a service dog must “perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for himself or herself.” Those functions and tasks are almost without limits.
“I was shocked to see them treating someone with a disability this way,” Mandy Robinson, from Enid, said. “It makes me never want to shop at their store again.”
At the time of publication, it was unknown if the woman will be taking this matter any further.

Governor Corbett signs law to protect service dogs

Governor Tom Corbett signed legislation on Aug. 8 that will offer help to service dogs and their owners. Sponsored by Rep. John Evans (R-Erie), House Bill 165 imposes a criminal penalty upon the owner or co-owner of a dog that kills, maims or disfigures a service dog without provocation.
Service dogs are specifically trained to assist individuals who have disabilities or other health-related concerns. Corbett was joined by Evans and several citizens, who advocated for the legislation. Corbett then ceremonially signed the law at the Susquehanna Service Dogs storefront location at the Harrisburg Mall. The storefront is used for service dog training classes.
Coincidentally, this week is International Assistance Dog Week, an observance created to recognize and raise awareness about these highly trained and hardworking animals. Under the new law, the criminal penalty includes fines of up to $5,000 and, if necessary, the veterinary or replacement costs of the service dog.

Store Learns Costly Lesson: Allow Service Dogs

TRENTON — A convenience store chain with locations throughout the county, will likely be more user-friendly to patrons needing assistance of service animals.
Under an agreement finalized in July, the Pennsylvania-based Wawa Corporation paid a Cumberland County man $12,500 to settle a complaint that occurred at its Millville store. According to court documents, on June 13 Patrick Stark entered the store accompanied by his service dog, Copenhagen. Stark told investigators he requires the use of a service animal because he experiences periodic seizures. Copenhagen is trained to assist him.
Stark, who entered the store to purchase a sandwich, was allegedly told he would not be served unless he took Copenhagen outside. When Stark attempted to explain to employees the service dog was permitted by law, a store manager allegedly told the man he must leave.
As part of a settlement agreement Wawa Corporation paid Stark and agreed to post signs in all of its New Jersey stores advising service dogs are welcomed. Wawa also agreed to train its New Jersey employees regarding the laws related to service animals as well as the company’s policies. All newly hired employees will also receive training.
The settlement suggests that Wawa consider making “a charitable donation to a service organization dedicated to providing service animals for individuals with disabilities.”
“This is an important resolution to this matter,” said New Jersey Division of Civil Rights Director Craig Sashihara. “The allegations in the case were troubling…”
Paulann Pierson, coordinator of Disabilities Service for the Cape May County Department of Aging and Disability Services, does not hear many complaints regarding service dogs in this county.
“Most businesses seem to be accommodating as to service animals,” said Pierson. “People with disabilities are part of our community,” said Pierson, “and they want to be included. We’re moving toward making our community totally inclusive.”
In order to insure they are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), local businesses such as stores, motels and hotels often contact Pierson for clarification. “Business and hotel and motel owners often ask questions,” Pierson told the Herald. “They want to be fair and sensitive to ADA requirements.”
Under ADA regulations, service animals are defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks of people with disabilities.” The task or the work the dog is trained to do must be directly related to the person’s disability.
If the service dog’s function is not easily discernible, business staff members may only ask two questions:
• Is the dog a service animal required for a disability?
• What task has the dog been trained to perform?
It is illegal to ask the person with the service dog about their disability, require medical documentation for that person or a special identification card for the dog or ask that the dog demonstrate its work.