The ADA offers broad protections for people with disabilities living in America. Our service dogs are classed with medical devices and are allowed to go everywhere the public is permitted with very few exceptions.*
Even in the case of rare and documented exception, the business must allow their customer with disability full and equal access to their services.
You would think this means businesses and their representatives are routinely instructed in ADA regulations regarding service dogs.
You would think wrong.
So what’s a body to do when confronted by the righteously ignorant hell bent on denying equal access?
If you’re us, you stand your ground, and the curtain goes up.
Puppity Mama: Enters favorite purveyor of tasty lunch stuffs with service dog on shoulder.
Dave the Security Guard: (hereforth: DSG) Holding an arm in front of Puppity Mama, the other raised in the universal gesture of ‘halt right there.’ You’re going to have to take that dog out of here.
Puppity Mama: Stands still, hands to the side, Puppity on the shoulder. This is a service dog.
DSG: Taking a small step forward, not quite touching Puppity Mama, but uncomfortably close. Let’s see your papers.
Puppity Mama: There are no papers. The ADA –
DSG: Then you’re going to have to take that dog out of here.
Puppity Mama: This is a service dog, and according to the ADA, there are only two questions you can ask –
DSG: Show me the papers.
Puppity Mama: That is not one of the questions. I have the same right to use this facility as everyone else, and you’re interfering with that right. The only questions you can ask are “is this a service dog?” and “What task does it do?”
DSG: Makes aborted shooing gestures because Puppity Mama will not move. I have to ask for papers.
Puppity Mama: Look. This is the ADA FAQ on service animals, and it says right here – Realizes the guard is not listening, but continues to attempt to shoo her out the door. I want to speak to a manager.
DSG: Let’s step outside and –
Puppity Mama: Look, my lunch break is running out, and I really do not have time for this. I want to speak to a manager RIGHT NOW.
DSG: Keep your voice down.
Puppity Mama: I will lower my voice when I can speak to a manager, which I want to do right now.
DSG: Departs, stage left.
Puppity Mama: Grabs a tray and starts getting lunch together.
DSG: Returns with a maybe-manager.
Maybe Manager: I’m sorry, we don’t allow dogs here.
Puppity Mama: This is a service dog, and I’ve eaten her with her many times in the past.
Maybe Manager: She was in a bag that time.
Puppity Mama: That doesn’t matter.
Maybe Manager: The health code is against any dogs in food service areas.
Puppity Mama: And federal law supports my right to use this facility with my service dog. Look, it says right here –
Maybe Manager: Shakes her head and waves the phone away. You need to take the dog and leave.
DSG: You need to go. Reaches for Puppity Mama with one hand.
Puppity Mama: Would you like to call the police? They’ll tell you what I’m telling you. Only if you do, please do it quickly, because I’d really like to have time to eat my lunch.
Maybe Manager: That’s not necessary. You need to step outside now, because it’s against the law to have a dog in here.
Puppity Mama: Absolutely fed up, taking a picture.
DSG: Hey, you can’t do that!
Maybe Manager: Why did you do that?
Puppity Mama: Because I want to remember his face when I report this.
Maybe Manager: That wasn’t necessary.
Puppity Mama: I think it was. Can I eat my lunch now? I’m going to eat my lunch now. Puppity Mama collects and pays for lunch, apologizing to the embarrassed cashier, and eats lunch, entering the details of the encounter into the handy ADA reporting form.
Here are the things to remember when confronted by someone who won’t accept the ADA’s FAQs as proof:
- They cannot touch you. If they touch you, that is assault.
- You have a federal right to the same access as every other customer which trumps any local law or regulation.
- Knowing you have a photo or recording of the encounter makes people doubt themselves. Get a photo. Get a name and badge number. Make a recording.
- If all of this fails, tweet about it, and use hashtags: #servicedog #discrimination #disabled #ada The last thing a business wants is for a journalist to get hold of the story if they’re caught discriminating against someone with a disability.
- Don’t become disruptive. If you become disruptive or abusive, they can throw you out for that reason.
- If you cannot reach a verbal consensus, and you have tried everything, go about your business; it’s your right. The worst they can do is call the police, and when you explain to the police that they tried to throw you out because of your service dog, the police officer will explain to them that they can’t do that.
It can be emotionally draining dealing with this kind of confrontation when you just want to eat your lunch or do your shopping, but the more you’ve been through it, the easier it gets.
Would it be easier if we just bought harnesses, a license, and certification papers on Amazon like thousands of disabled and non-disabled people alike?
In the next post, I’ll explain why we don’t.
*Zoos, for example, may make kennels available so people with service dogs can safely visit the predator exhibits. This is for the safety of the dog, the handler, and the animals in the zoo.