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ADA Laws - Service Animals

ADA Laws - Service Animals

Postby Happy Mom » Mon Mar 23, 2015 8:04 am

Bar owner turns away woman's service dog: 'It's just a pet'
Incident raises question: What is a service dog?


Bar owner turns away woman's service dog: 'It's just a pet'
Becky Malewitz, South Bend Tribune
Image
Garnett Porter gives Bo a treat in their Koontz Lake home. “He’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Porter says of the dog that can detect when her seizures are imminent.SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ

Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015 7:00 am
By Virginia Black South Bend Tribune

WALKERTON — Garnett Porter was upset about her friend's death and thought she'd stop for a sandwich and a glass of wine at the nearby bar before traveling up the road to the funeral home.

Before leaving her house on March 10, she fastened a service dog jacket on her 4-year-old Sheltie, Bo, who goes everywhere with her.
They climbed into her golf cart. Porter, who will soon be 75, has not driven a car since a cerebral hemorrhage a few decades ago left her legally blind and prone to occasional seizures.
Porter and Bo entered the Time Out bar on Indiana 23 near Walkerton, and owner Scott Rajski told Porter the dog had to go.
"That dog can't be here, because I serve food," Rajski told her.

"But he's my service dog," Porter said, pointing to Bo's coat and showing Rajski a laminated card that describes the American Disabilities Act certification of service dogs. "You'll have to call the police, because I'm not leaving."
Then she sat down at a table, Bo at her feet.
Rajski did call the Starke County Sheriff's Department. Two officers arrived and told Porter she had to go. (Attempts to reach the Starke County sheriff last week were not successful.)
Both Porter and Rajski describe the incident the same way. But their views on service dog laws could not be more different.
When I spoke to Rajski the first time, just a few days after the unfortunate showdown, he was still angry at Porter's demand.
"I have nothing against her and I have nothing against her dog," he said. "She doesn't need that dog, and I want to see credible documentation that says otherwise, that I can see online myself."
Rajski has owned the bar 14 years, and he has never had a request for a service dog there before. He pointed out that Porter's bad vision doesn't keep her from driving her golf cart.
"It's just a pet she wants to take with her," he said, standing in his bar. "This is for people, not a pet store."
'The law is pretty clear'
But according to an ADA spokesman and a local attorney who handles disability-related cases, federal civil rights laws say a person can use a service animal for a wide range of disabilities, not just vision issues.
And the laws are loose on determining how such animals are trained or certified.
South Bend attorney Kent Hull, who teaches a disability law course at the University of Notre Dame and was just last week appointed to Indiana's Civil Rights Commission, said the laws are clear that service dogs must be allowed into any business, government building or organization that welcomes the public.
Allowable maladies include epilepsy and even mental conditions such as anxiety or being bipolar.
"Under the law, the service animal that is comforting somebody is allowed under the ADA," Hull said.
A business owner is not allowed to ask what the person's disability is, and the owner of a service animal does not have to produce documentation.
"Unless the animal is presenting a problem of some type, they must accept the person's word," he said. "The law is pretty clear that it is the animal's owner who defines what is a service animal."
Hull said most people believe only seeing-eye dogs to help the blind are allowed. He's skeptical that many people would take a service animal everywhere if they did not feel a need to do so.
Told of Porter's situation, he said, "I think she is clearly within her rights under the ADA."
If a person denied entry wanted to push the point, Hull described a few options: to sue under the ADA in state or federal court; to sue for an injunction to prevent the owner's action, should she be denied again; or file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate. It's possible she could win attorney fees, as well.
'Just a pet'
Bo became Porter's dog when he was 11 weeks old, when Porter was looking at a friend's litter of puppies and one of the pups crawled over to her. It was Bo.
Porter's husband of 25 years had died, and his death and her medical issues cut short her nearly 20 years with the U.S. Postal Service.
When the dog was nearly a year old, people began to notice that when Porter had a seizure, it had been predicted by his frantic attention.
A bartender who noticed it first, she says, after Bo stood barking in front of her and she subsequently had a seizure in his Warsaw establishment. "He sat me in a chair and said, 'Garnett, that dog knew you were going to have a seizure.' "
A friend, Barb Hudson, said she has witnessed it, too. "He was licking her and licking her," she said, "and would not let it go."
And after the seizure, Hudson says, Bo was protective, not wanting anyone to touch his mistress.
In a sense, the dog trained himself, and the people around him finally caught on. When he alerts Porter to a seizure, it allows her to sit down and prepare for what's coming so that she doesn't hurt herself for the few minutes she's unconscious and twitching.
Visiting Porter's Koontz Lake home, the Sheltie is excited and barking when strangers arrive or prepare to leave. But when Porter tells him to quiet down, he obeys and sits next to her attentively.
Even when she rises and heads to the bathroom, he follows and then sits, disappointed, in front of the closed bathroom door.
Porter said she takes him everywhere, including the grocery or into restaurants, and he's never disruptive.
"He astounds a lot of people because he's so smart," she said proudly. He's sensitive, and she's convinced Bo knew that day in Rajski's bar that the commotion was about him.
"I'm a bull-headed old witch," Porter said, laughing, about why she wants to educate business owners about the importance of service dogs. Then she turns serious. "And I don't want him mistreated, because it's wrong. He knows when somebody doesn't like him."
Since I spoke with Rajski the first time, he had researched the ADA provisions on service animals and had learned that Porter was within her rights.
But that doesn't mean he has to like it.
If she wants to bring Bo into his bar, he's resigned to allow it "because legally I don't have a leg to stand on. I'm not going to go into litigation over this little issue."
And because of Porter's seizures, Rajski said last week, he will likely refuse the "crabby old lady" any alcohol for her own good. He's within his rights to refuse alcohol to anyone for any reason.
"I haven't changed my mind personally," he said. "The dog is just a pet."
Virginia Black: 574-235-6321
vblack@sbtinfo.com
To learn more
• To see more on ADA rules, go to www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm
• Stevensville resident Sara Conrad has started a blog, seeinglifetogether.blogspot.com, and a Facebook page, Seeing Life Together. She says she wants to educate others about service dogs after training Renee, her Seeing Eye Dog.

http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/lo ... ed2b4.html
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