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For many disabled people, life would be difficult without their service dog.
Dog owners value their pets as beloved members of the family. However, for persons who rely heavily on their service animals for daily life activities, they are invaluable.
These canines are not just pets. They are highly-trained animals who perform many tasks for people living with disabilities.
Consequently, they give these individuals an opportunity to interact with the world in a way that would have otherwise been impossible.
Because of what they do, service dogs are given free passes in zones where dogs wouldn’t typically be allowed.
As long as the pooch has been sufficiently trained to help you as the handler, you should go anywhere with them.
Well, this is not always the case. Some establishments can bar you and the dog from making an entrance to their facility.
Blame it on the rise of fake service dogs and the limited knowledge of the service dog industry in general.
What are you supposed to do if your service dog is denied access?
1. Keep Calm
This doesn’t sound like much but when you are confronted with an access challenge for your service dog, it is easy to lose your temper.
The feeling of being rejected doesn’t sit well with anyone, let alone a disabled person.
If the individual serving you is rude to you, the first instinct is to let them know you can sue the premise.
You will want to return the favor by shouting at them and using gestures that let them know you understand your rights.
Well, that will not get you anywhere. If you fail to keep your cool, you may lose the audience even before you explain yourself.
The person is bound to walk away from you or cause a scene—both of which will hurt you badly.
Most access challenges can be solved amicably if you act calm and professional.
2. Explain Your Rights
The ADA has rules regarding the use of service animals in no-dog zones.
Wherever you go, your service animal should always be with you.
The only exceptions include churches, mosques, private homes, and private clubs. Learn more here: Where Are Service Dogs Not Allowed?
What’s more, you don’t have to show any proof that the dog is a service animal.
The ADA doesn’t permit anyone from requesting to see the dog’s vests, registration documents, tags, or any other accessory.
Learn more here:
The staff or business owner is only allowed to ask you if the dog is required for a certain disability and which tasks they should perform.
If you answer satisfactorily, no one should stop you from accessing the business with your dog.
Sadly, not many people know these things. Many of them feel the need to ask you to show documentation for the dog, request you to tell them about your disability, or ask that the dog performs a few tasks to show their abilities and skills.
This is a perfect time to let the employee or business owner know more about ADA rules and guidelines.
If you have a printout of the same, hand them a copy. If the employee doesn’t seem to understand your situation, ask to speak to the manager.
Remember to be professional and respectful the entire time.
By now, you should have entry to the facility after a heartfelt apology.
Before you carry on with your duties, consider asking the manager to educate his employees on the rights of service dog handlers so the situation doesn’t take place again.
3. Call the Police
In most cases, things don’t escalate to this point. Business owners don’t enjoy getting entangled with the law.
Besides spoiling the reputation of the company, going that route can cost them money in lawsuits and compensation.
However, once in a while, you may come across a situation that demands taking extra action.
Before you call the police, you might want to intimidate the person denying you access by dialing the ADA’s Information Line.
The customer care reps should convince them of your rights so they can open their doors to you.
If that doesn’t work, you have no choice but to phone the police.
The police are trained on how to handle such conflicts and will do what’s needful to ease the tension if any and take statements for later.
What to Expect
Stopping a service dog from gaining access to no-pet areas is an offense.
It is treated as a form of discrimination against people living with disabilities and is punishable by law.
There are state and local laws governing the discrimination of disabled persons. These vary from one state to another.
Besides the state and local laws denying access to a service dog is a direct violation of the ADA rules.
Depending on what occurs, the person that made the violation may suffer from a range of punishments including fines, injunctions, citations, and lawsuits.
Public locations that violate the laws are liable for paying damages.
Related Post: Penalty for Refusing a Service Dog
If you choose to sue the business for denying you access to their premise, it might be a good idea to go get the right evidence.
For one, you want to record the situation as it happens. Get clear pictures and videos if you can to be presented later in court.
Be sure to inform the business owner that you are making records of the conflict and you intend to use them later.
Who knows, perhaps this is what they need to leave you alone and let the whole thing boil over.
Also, write down what you can remember about what transpired. At court, the judge will request to see documentation of your service dog’s tasks.
These include videos of upper-level training, public access tests, and completed tasks. These prove that the dog is indeed a highly-trained animal.
Hiring a good disability lawyer is also a great idea. No matter how knowledgeable you are, some things are only left for the experts.
If you are dealing with a business, chances are they will have attorneys to fight for them in court.
If they have deep pockets, they will get the best litigators in town. You should improve your odds of winning by doing the same.
A good attorney will guide you on the rules and regulations surrounding ADA violations. They will also offer support throughout the process.
It is not a very good feeling to have your important service animal be denied access to a facility.
Having to explain yourself in this era of technology and awareness is even worse.
Yet, service dog access challenges are more common than we’d like to admit.
If you ever find yourself in one, follow the procedure stipulated in this guide.
Hopefully, you will not have to involve the authorities but if you have to, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile.