Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Service Dog Advocates, Is Your Proposed Rule Change Discriminatory?

As an advocate for users of assistance animals, I get discouraged when I see service dog handlers on social media and blogs trying to undermine the rights of other people with service dogs. There is so much misinformation out there, so little civil rights education, and such confusion between actual laws and regulations versus the preferences and prejudices of the public, service dog trainers, and service dog handler groups. It’s understandable that even well-meaning handlers could think that registration, certification, testing, etc., should be imposed on their peers.

If you’re thinking of proposing or promoting the idea of such limits on our rights to service dogs, please take a moment to read this ADA refresher with quotes from the Department of Justice (the agency that makes the regulations and is responsible for the enforcement of the public access section of the ADA, Title III).
Your registration or identification scheme is discriminatory if it keeps any person with a disability from living as free and spontaneous a life as a person without their disability when it comes to public accommodations:
Specifically, title III requires places of public accommodation to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, or procedures to afford access to persons with disabilities, including those who use service animals, that is equal to the access afforded to individuals without disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(a). [DOJ, from “SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND WAL-MART STORES, INC.” http://www.ada.gov/walmart.htm, emphasis added]
Before you propose a scheme for registering or identifying service dogs, ask yourself if it would make access more difficult for someone who . . .
. . . is jogging by a coffee shop with their seizure alert dog when a friend waves him/her down and offers to buy breakfast. The dog is unvested and the jogger is not carrying his/her wallet or purse. Could this person be denied the right to eat at the restaurant because of your scheme?
. . . is a lawyer taking Eskalith and Depakote which cause frequent urination and diarrhea/loss of control of the bowels. Nature isn’t just calling, she’s screaming when the person and psychiatric service dog rush from the courthouse and arrive at a restaurant for a business luncheon he/she is hosting. Will your scheme increase

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Sick Day in the Life of a Service Dog

Our free dispersed camping site
I found myself suddenly wide awake this morning at 3 a.m. That rarely happens to me unless I'm well into hypomania, yet I had no other symptoms at all. Maeve was absolutely quiet and still curled up in the driver's seat as usual.  I tried all my tricks to get back to sleep to no avail. At 4:30 I gave up. As soon as I started to move, Maeve came over to my bed and stared at me. She needed out--more than four hours earlier than usual. Once I got her outside it became obvious she was ill. I couldn't believe she'd been able to wait for me. We spend the next hour and a half going in and out of the van -- often in a BIG hurry. I think I actually sensed Maeve's silent distress and woke up because of it. I only wish I'd gotten up right away.

Contrary to all the assumptions about psychiatric service dogs, Maeve and I don't have a Mommy/Baby, cuddly relationship. We're tightly bonded, but not lovey-dovey. Today was an exception. By the time the sun

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Discriminatory Regulations Proposed by the National Park Service

Maeve & Joanne at Mammoth Visitor Center, Yellowstone NP
The new regulations proposed by the National Park Service in regard to animals have at least two provisions which discriminate against people with disabilities who use service dogs.  I've submitted my comments officially. You can read those comments here and there's a link at the bottom to the full text of the proposed regulations.