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:
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.