Tag Archives: unique service animals

PSA Mondays: ADA Laws and Service Animals

(I am assuming that most of you have read our last 2 blog posts and are up to date on what happened this weekend. If not, please go here and then here.)

Now, for those of you who know all about service animals I apologize about the post. I feel compelled, however, to post this today because of some comments I received on our two most recent blog posts. In an effort of fairness I have approved those comments and you can read them. I do not make comments go through moderation so that I can edit people or pick and chose what goes on the blog. I only do it so that spam links, foul language, and threatening posts do not go on the page.

One of these comments claimed that we are not educating people with this blog as we have set out to do. They accuse us of using it to vent about bad experiences we have had. Those of you who know us or have been reading this since the beginning know better, I hope.

Still, we have decided that some people might need some basic 101. To make it even more clear to us, after we decided what today’s blog would be about (on the way to SDP yesterday) and we were forming this in our minds, we encountered another place that needed some education. (We told you we knew it was just the beginning of this happening to us.)

We went to eat after leaving SDP on Sunday. There was an outdoor area and a family was eating there with another dog. It was gorgeous out so we would have loved to stay outside, but we didn’t want to have to worry about Casper getting distracted. The hostess, who was outside the door, didn’t even ask if we wanted inside or outside and pointed to a table immediately next to the other dog. We explained that Casper was working so we needed to go inside, away from the other dog. She asked us to wait outside and went in to get a waitress. A waitress came out and said that he couldn’t come inside. I explained that he was a service dog and handed her a card with the law on it (we were ready this time). Again, they went inside and  made us wait outside. Finally, we were admitted and people were very kind. We are not upset with this establishment because there was no malice. No one insulted Casper. They were just uneducated. We did speak to the manager who reassured us that he knows the law and that they should have known it too. We told him we did not wish for anyone to get in trouble, but they needed training.

Ok, that said I will move on to the purpose of this blog.

We have a business card in Casper’s vest that we can hand out, if needed, that sums up the ADA law in reference to service animals. It does not go into deep detail, but it gives the basics. For anyone wanting to read more, you can go to the ADA website and view the most recent (2011) revision of laws pertaining to service animals.

Here is a photo of the cards we carry:

Front of ADA laws card

FRONT

Back of ADA laws

BACK

I won’t get into every word on the card, but let’s talk about the front side, which is the basic summary of our rights and also includes a toll-free number for the establishment to call. The back has FAQs for the establishment and I won’t go into those right now for brevity’s sake.

In bold, the card states, “I am a Service Animal and my right to accompany my handler is protected by Federal Law.” Now, if it were me, and for 36 years of my life I was without a partner who had a service dog and I also worked in restaurants and retail for most of my adult life, that statement alone would be enough. Actually, I knew the laws from the early days of employment because it was covered in training as it should be in ALL public establishments.

That is not enough for everyone, however. Restaurants will especially think that they do not have to comply because of health regulations. Therefore, the card goes on.

“In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Business may ask:     1) Is this a Service Dog?
     2) What tasks does the Service Animal perform?”

That is ALL you are allowed to ask. And the same goes for employers of someone who has a service animal. You cannot ask, “What is your disability?” or “Why do you need a dog?” Not only are these questions rude, they are illegal. When we are asked we tell people that Casper is a mobility dog. If they don’t understand that (because we talk to kids a lot about what he does) we will say he helps Dan with his balance, walking on stairs, or getting up and down if he falls or even bracing to get up from a seated position. They do not need to know anymore than that.

“Business May Not:
1) Require special identification for the animal.

     2) Ask about the person’s disability
     3) Charge Additional fees because of the animal     4) Refuse admittance, isolate, segregate, or treat this person less favorably than other patrons.”

Now, I understand why some people do not agree with #1. There are plenty of people who bring in fake service animals. However, we should not bear the burden of proof that our animal has been certified. There are rules about how the animal should act (getting to that next) and that is all we need to fulfill. Can you imagine if you had to carry your child’s birth certificate (or your own) with you wherever you go? I don’t even carry my social security card with me. It is not safe. And it is a hassle. If you think going everywhere with an animal is easy, it’s not. It is like going everywhere with a small child (except often the animal may behave better). We do not get to just “run in” anywhere quickly anymore. We have to make sure we have bags, leashes, bowls, and sometimes his food, wherever we go. We have to stop in the middle of things to walk him. It is not easy. The last thing we need to add to it is keeping track of important paperwork every day.

We just covered #2. Don’t do it.

Number 3 applies mostly to hotels. The dog is not there by choice, it is by necessity. We are responsible for any damages he might cause anywhere, but no upfront fees can be charged. It also applies to rental property pet deposit. Rentals that do not allow pets are also required to allow service animals.

Rule 4 here pretty much sums up the most basic point of this. You cannot require, for example, that we eat outside because we have a dog. Furthermore, you cannot put us in a special room, or off to the side where we won’t “bother” others. We also cannot be treated poorly. (An example is when we were traveling and the waitress told the dog he was in her way and then made an effort to show us how put out she was throughout the meal.)

“A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless:     1) the animal is out of control and the animal’s owner does not take effective action to control it.
     2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.”

This is the part where we, as service dog handlers, are responsible. During our recent “incident,” if Casper HAD been the one in the store barking and growling, or if he was acting wild and knocking thinks down, then the shop owner would have every right to make him leave IF (and this is the important part) we did take not immediate action and successfully get him under control. We have had issues outside where Casper would pull and bark a greeting at another dog (his bark is LOUD) and that would be unacceptable in a shop. However, a quick tug at his correction collar and a “leave it” would stop that behavior and have him back in control and we would be fine. Of course, on Saturday, Casper did not bark, tugged only slightly toward the dog (after it barked) and was immediately in a down-stay before he was even reprimanded by the shop employee. In other words, he was legally allowed to be there. Also, an establishment may not refuse to offer goods and services once the service animal has been removed as requested.

As to the second part, any service animal that bites, scratches, knocks someone over, etc.. can be removed. A service animal cannot be removed if someone is allergic or has a fear of animals. Reasonable accommodation for both parties will be made by the establishment. I worked for an airline for a time and the rule on a plane is that the service animal has priority and someone with an allergy must be rebooked on a different flight.

Lastly,

“Refusal to provide equal access to people with disabilities with service animals is a federal civil rights violation, provided by the American Disability Act of 1990. Violators can be required to pay money damages and penalties.”

In other words, they can be sued.

Now, we believe that the American culture has become sue happy. We don’t want to ruin anyone because they did not know that law. However, we don’t think that people can be allowed to treat those with disabilities like second class citizens. Civil rights are quite important to us and if a company continues to refuse access to us, or someone else, they may face legal action. We did not want to do this in the case of Mystical Elements because it came down to an issue of ignorance and fear. We feel that we educated that store and staff and are certain it will not happen to anyone in the future.

I hope this EDUCATED our readers better than we have done as yet. And stay tuned for a fun post tomorrow. Casper was a little naughty at home this weekend!!

written by LJS

Nodoggie’s Perfect

Hi Friends!

Tonight we went on a special walk. It was just me and Mom and Dad. The human puppies are with their other Dad (kind of like how Jasper is my Dad, but I like to think of Dan as my Dad better.) First we went out to ‘do my business.’ Then we went the other way, not toward home. That was exciting. So exciting I started to walk really fast. Dad kept telling me to go easy and I really was trying. Really. But, I mean, we were going a NEW WAY!

We saw a couple dogs along the way. I didn’t really do too bad, but I did make Dad fall a little a couple times. It was just so exciting. Then we kept walking. And I still walked fast. Did I mention it was EXCITING? We even crossed a street and went past some big houses I have only seen from inside the car. And then we were there!

There was this vegetable stand that also sells ice cream called Jem’s Garden. I have been there with Dad and the puppies to get corn but I had to wait in the car with the puppies. This time I got to be out there with all the people. Mom and Dad say their ice cream is really good. I guess I have to take their word for it since they wouldn’t get me any.

There were some kids there so I got excited again, but Dad let them come up and pet me so it was OK. There was a really nice lady there who asked a lot of questions. Mom told her about this blog. She said she wanted to get her human puppy a service dog. She said she has special needs and had some developmental disabilities. I will take her word for that too; that puppy seemed really perfect to me. She said she wanted to put me in her bag and carry me around. I liked that.  Dad says I am the perfect ambassador for getting people to open up and talk more about disabilities. Mom said she is going to call me the “Ambassador of Awesome.”

Then we saw other people we met before and I got a ton of pets while  Dad and Mom ate their ice cream. One guy even knew the secret of scratching my butt. (The secret is that my legs go weak and I have to sit down!) How did he know that? I think he was a wizard.

The walk home was like the walk there. I was just too excited about spreading the word about this blog and how great SDP is. It is hard for a puppy to not want to gallop around when that stuff happens. Speaking of being too excited…

I should share with you when I get scolded too. It’s OK because we all make mistakes and learn from them. It really isn’t that bad but I picked up on the vibe, so we talked it out. The other morning we got up for work and everything was as usual until I saw Dad’s monster dart from under the table to behind the food gate. I have to figure out how this room works. The monsters disappear into a room that I can’t get to. I ran around looking and even went upstairs where Mom was sleeping to find the monster. She wasn’t there so I decided to say hi to Mom and the small puppy that had just crept in for morning cuddles. I decided it was a really good time for group hugs. Mom disagreed and yelled at me. Then Dad came upstairs to get me.  We had to leave, but I decided playing keep away was more fun. It turned out Dad went from calm to annoyed when I went back into the bedroom, ran around the bed, and then onto it! (I think I kind of smooshed the little puppy, but I heard her say she was ok when Mom asked so I guess it’s fine.) Dad grabbed me and pulled my harness and put me on the floor for a two-count. He meant business! I decided it was better to comply, especially when he had to use the correction collar to get my service vest on. As he snapped the buckles he said it was okay but I chose a bad time to play. After that we walked and “loaded up” in the truck for work. He gave me hugs and said I was good.  Sometimes I just do silly puppy stuff so we have stories for our fans. You’re welcome!

Dad also laughs at me and says I’m just like our oldest human puppy when I get up from work naps. I wake up slow and get grouchy when he gives me an up command. I just paw at him, and ask for just five more minutes. He says I can sleep in between work. I eventually get up, but it’s a fun game. Mom tells him that the big puppy is just terrible to get ready to go in the mornings. I totally understand.

I want to tell everyone that I really enjoy reading the comments you share on the blog. I don’t usually get the chance to reply, but I do read and enjoy them. Thank you so much for your loving feedback. Knowing that you enjoy the blog keeps us posting.

It’s been a long day. I think I need to get some cuddles and go to sleep!

written by DFS and LJS