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Tag: service dog

TJ Maxx manager asks Boston Marathon bomb survivor to remove her service dog

sydney

A 19-year-old survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing was told her service dog was not allowed to walk the aisles of a TJ Maxx in New Hampshire.

Sydney Corcoran says she was shopping at the store in Nashua when a store manager said her service dog needed to be placed in a store-supplied “carriage” or leave the store.

Corcoran suffered shrapnel wounds in the bombing and her mother, Celeste, lost both legs. Sydney Corcoran got Koda, her service dog, to help her deal with post-trauamatic stress disorder.

“He’s crucial to my everyday life now,” she told WCVB.

Last Thursday, Koda was wearing his service dog vest when a manager approached and said, “If you want to keep your dog in the store, you have to put him in the carriage.” Sydney said she informed the manager that Koda is a service dog and that he wouldn’t be able to fit comfortably in the carriage. The manager, she said, told her the carriage was a new policy, and that she was required to comply.

celesteSydney left the store and called her mother, who, when she went to the store in person, received an apology.

“She said, ‘I’m sorry.’ And I said, ‘That’s not good enough. You should have known,’” Celeste said. “You just made someone with an emotional disorder so much worse.”

She added, “There are so many people with invisible, silent injuries — and the public needs to be aware that their service animals are sometimes their lifeline.”

TJ Maxx said in a statement: “We are taking this customer matter very seriously. Customers with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals are welcome in our stores at any time.

“We have looked into the particulars regarding this customer’s experience and deeply regret that our procedures were not appropriately followed in this instance. We are taking actions which we believe are appropriate, including working with our stores to reinforce the acceptance of service animals.”

(Photos: Top, Sydney and Celeste Corcoran with Koda, WCVB; bottom, Celeste and Sydney in this year’s Boston Marathon, Reuters)

Condo association to pay for its stupidity

fischerA Florida condo association that told a woman with multiple sclerosis that her service dog was too big has agreed to pay $300,000 to atone for its collective stupidity.

The settlement followed a federal judge’s declaration that Sabal Palm Condominiums in Davie, which sued to force the woman to get rid of the dog, had behaved in a manner both absurd and unreasonable, not to mention in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

“Sabal Palm got it exactly — and unreasonably — wrong,” U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola wrote in his order.

“This is not just common sense — though it is most certainly that.”

Scola ordered the condo association to allow Deborah Fischer, a retired art teacher, to keep her service dog, the Miami Herald reported.

Fischer, who uses a wheelchair and has limited use of her arms and hands, received a service dog in November 2011 from Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit group that provides dogs for people with disabilities.

The dog – a 5-year-old Labrador-golden retriever mix named Sorenson — has been trained to help Fischer pick things up, open and close doors and retrieve items from counter tops.

The condominium association, saying the dog violated its 20-pound limit on pets, began demanding medical records and other information to prove that Fischer needed Sorenson — and it sued Fischer when, it said, she failed to provide it.

Fischer, along with her husband, Larry, counter-sued, saying the condo board’s demands violated the federal Fair Housing Act, or FHA.

Judge Scola, in a 30-page ruling, strongly agreed with Fischer.

That the condo association “turned to the courts to resolve what should have been an easy decision is a sad commentary on the litigious nature of our society. And it does a disservice to people like Deborah who actually are disabled and have a legitimate need for a service dog as an accommodation under the FHA,” he wrote.

Condo board members suggested that Fischer could get a smaller service dog, but Scola didn’t buy that argument.

After Scola ruled in the Fischers’ favor, their attorney negotiated a $300,000 settlement with the attorney representing Sabal Palm.

Fischer said Sorenson can recognize 40 separate commands.

“He has made my life so much better,” she said.

(Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Dietz)

Dashboard cam captures officer’s fatal shooting of an Idaho family’s dog

As a family in southern Idaho celebrated their son’s 9th birthday inside, a police officer pulled in front of their house, warned two unleashed and barking dogs to get away, then shot one of them, fearing it was going to attack him – all as his dashboard cam recorded the scene.

Warning: The video is disturbing and contains some profanity.

As the police car’s windshield wipers slap away, the officer can be heard telling the dogs to “get back … move!” as he gets out of his car. He can be seen kicking at one dog, then pointing his gun at him — as if a dog would understand that warning.

Then, almost casually it appears, he shoots the dog in the front yard before heading to the family’s front door, while telling dispatchers over the radio, in case they received reports of shots being fired, that it was him: ”I just shot the dog.”

In the four minutes that follow he can be heard, but not seen, informing the dog’s owner what happened — mostly by screaming at him:

“Is this your dog? … I just shot your dog because it tried to bite me. Okay? I come here for a f—ing call and it tried to bite me.”

It happened Saturday, when Filer police officer Tarek Hassani arrived to check on a complaint of dogs running at large. The dashboard video was obtained Monday by the Times-News in southern Idaho.

Rick Clubb said his son’s birthday party was wrapping up about 5:30 p.m. when the 7-year-old black Labrador retriever, named Hooch, was shot outside his home.

Clubb said he suffers Parkinson’s disease, and Hooch, who did not survive, was his trained service animal.

Clubb was he plans to fight the ticket Hassani issued him for an unleashed dog. He added, “He didn’t have to pull out his .45 and shoot my dog. It was right outside my son’s bedroom. What if it had ricocheted through the window?”

Filer Police Chief Tim Reeves said Hassani said that the officer had no choice but to shoot the Lab because it was behaving aggressively.

Clearly, Filer police could use some training on how to deal with dogs, other than using lethal force.

Judging from the one-sided conversation Hassani had with Clubb, they could use some training in being civil as well.

“It’s aggressing me. its’ growling at me,” Hassani can be heard telling Clubb minutes after the shooting. ” … I’m not going to get bit. The last time I got bit I ended up in the ER and I ended up with stitches in my hand … Your dog aggresses me … all of it’s teeth are showing, aggressing me, what am I supposed to think? I yelled at it, I even kicked it a couple of times to get it away from me. It kept charging toward me so I shot it … I love dogs, but I’m not going to be bit again.”

“Is he dead?” Clubb finally asks.

“I think so, yes,” Hassani says.

Creed and Casper: A boy and a service dog


How a hospital service dog brightened — and maybe even prolonged — the final days of sick little boy is the subject of this poignant report by WXIA in Atlanta.

Creed Campbell spent more than half of his life in the hospital, battling illness since the day he was born and missing out on many of the joys of childhood.

Then, while in the hospital, he met Casper, a service dog from Canine Assistants who visits young patients.

Casper was the new therapy dog at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. Creed was one of the first children he’d be assigned to. The bond was instant, the family says.

“I don’t think he ever saw Casper as a dog,” Creed’s father, Jon Campbell, said.

CreedonCasperCreed was thought to be nearing death one day when Casper came for his visit and jumped in his bed.

Creed’s mother, Stephanie, put her son’s motionless hand on Casper’s paw, then saw her son’s hand begin to move.

“That dog just saved your son,” a nurse later told the family.

Because Casper visited him in the hospital, Creed felt he should go along when the dog went to the vet for  a check up. In fact, he insisted on doing so, his mother, Stephanie wrote in a blog post about Casper and Creed for the hospital’s website.

Creed’s health improved, but only for a while.

Not long after Creed died, a new litter of puppies was born at Canine Assistants. They named one for Creed.

Stephanie went to meet the dog named after her son.

“I picked that dog up and … It was something tangible that I could hold again that brought me to my baby,” she said. “Everything he’s lived through all of his heartache, all of his hardship, I get to hold it right here with this little warm fuzzy pup.”

(Photo: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

Agency files lawsuit seeking to “repossess” handicapped priest’s retired service dog

A Pennsylvania service dog agency is suing an Episcopal priest with cerebral palsy to force her to give up the service dog she has had since 2007.

So reports the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

The Rev. Claire Wimbush says it’s unlikely she could continue living on her own without Willa, a 10-year-old yellow Labrador retriever provided to her through Canine Partners for Life, a Cochranville, Pa.-based agency that says it wants the dog back for reasons not fully specified.

Canine Partners filed suit last month in Pennsylvania Supreme Court, accusing Wimbush of violating her dog care contract and asking the court to order the dog’s return — along with “reimbursement of all costs and expenses, including legal and court fees.”

Darlene Sullivan, executive director of Canine Partners, declined to comment on the specifics of Wimbush’s case, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. The newspaper is owned by Gannett Co. Inc., and the Rev. Wimbush is the daughter of Gannett Vice President Jane Ann Wimbush.

According to the lawsuit, the Rev. Wimbush did not follow the agency’s training rules, including those that require recipients of  its dogs to maintain contact through follow-up reports. 

“If on repeated occasions there are problems with compliance, we will place that person on probation and they will get a letter explaining everything about why and letting them know if there are further violations they will lose their dog,” the agency’s director said. “If it gets to that point, and they refuse to return the dog to us, we have no choice but to take legal action.”

The Rev. Wimbush said she believes the agency wants Willa back because she was late turning in paperwork about the dog’s health and behavior. She said the documents were mailed on March 25, but Canine Partners didn’t get them by the April 2 deadline. An email from the agency came on April 4, saying arrangements needed to be made for the dog’s return. Six days later, she says, she received a letter telling her to bring Willa to the airport for “repossession.”

wimbushandwilla“I’m bewildered by this,” said Wimbush, who who has spastic cerebral palsy quadriplegia and uses a motorized wheelchair for mobility. Wimbush served as Curate of Christian Education at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Rochester from 2011 until last weekend, and is now planning to move back to her native Virginia to be closer to her mother.

On a website supporting her campaign to keep the dog, claireandwilla.com, the Rev. Wimbush notes that Willa’s status changed in February, 2012, when she retired from being a service dog and became a home companion dog:

“My ministry had changed; I was no longer moving from place to place over the course of a day, so I didn’t need her to help me carry things and open doors as often. The Rochester winters are tough on both of us. She was nine years old, almost ten; it seemed like the right time to make a change. Since her retirement, she gets to be petted and admired by all the members of my congregation, especially the elementary school crowd. She still goes with me to the church most days, and often accompanies me when I visit parishioners in animal-friendly retirement communities…”

The reverend admits to having had trouble keeping up with the agency’s required paperwork in 2007, due to illness. The lawsuit says she has had a history of not complying with those requirements. In 2009, the suit says, Wimbush was placed on “permanent probation” and told that any future violations would result in the immediate loss of the dog.

On the Facebook page of Canine Partners for Life, the agency is taking some lumps for filing the lawsuit against the handicapped priest, and some commenters are saying it is “shameful” for it to be demanding the dog back.

“What part of ‘for life’ am I missing?” one person wrote.

It’s unusual for an agency like Canine Partners to demand a dog be returned, according to Toni Eames, president of the International Association of Assistant Dog Partners, an advocacy group of people with guide, hearing and service dogs.

“It’s a very legitimate agency, and there has to be something, mistreatment of the dog, neglect, maybe it has gained a tremendous amount of weight or there’s abuse, there‘s got to be something. Filing papers late is not a reason to demand return of a dog,” she told the newspaper.

Marsha Sweet, assistant director of independent living services for the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, knew of only two such cases, and both times an agreement was reached allowing the person to keep the dog. “Usually, the agencies really try to remedy the situation,” she said.

The Rev. Wimbush hopes that might still happen, and an agreement can be worked out.

“I would do anything, anything, to keep my dog,” she said.

(Photo: ClaireandWilla.com)

School district settles lawsuit over banning autistic student’s service dog

The fight between a Florida school district and a student with autism who wanted to bring his service dog to class is over — with no real resolution.

The Collier County School Board approved a settlement last week that will pay William and Brenda Hughes $125,000 to settle a lawsuit brought forward on behalf of their son, Derek.

The suit alleged that the district violated the Individuals With Disabilities Act, the American Disabilities Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

In return for the Hughes dropping the complaint, and agreeing not to enroll their son in Collier County’s schools again, the district forked over the money and admitted no wrongdoing.

Hughes and his wife pulled their autistic son, Derek, from Collier public schools several years ago. He now attends school in Chester County, Pennsylvania, according to NaplesNews.com

The family had argued that the school district was negligent by not allowing the Pine Ridge Middle School student to bring his service dog to school.

Through a Dog’s Eyes

As the founder of one of the country’s largest service dog organizations, Jennifer Arnold has spent the last 20 years breeding, training and matching service dogs for people with disabilities or special needs.

Now she has documented that mission, which began when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 16, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I remember not wanting to leave the house,” she said. “I felt very awkward, scared. It surprised me how frightened I was to be left alone. You feel so vulnerable.”

throughdogseyesArnold’s book, “Through a Dog’s Eyes,” comes out in September. A PBS documentary based on the book and narrated by Neil Patrick Harris debuts April 21.

Arnold and her family decided to set up their own service dog training school when, as a teenager, she was diagnosed and found herself in a wheelchair. She applied, but was so far down the list that the family began making plans for their own service dog academy.

Three weeks later, though, her father, a surgeon,was hit and killed by a drunken motorcycle driver. Arnold and her mother spent the next 10 years raising funds, and incorporated on Dec. 31, 1991. They started training their first dog the next year. Canine Assistants is now among the largest service dog providers in the country.

“Through a Dog’s Eyes” looks at Arnold’s treat-based teaching methods, five of the people to which the organization has provided dogs and how the dogs have helped them regain independence.

One of them is Bryson Casey, 30, of Kansas City, Mo., who served in Iraq as a captain with the National Guard. He came home and was in a car crash that left him a quadriplegic. He and his dog Wagner bonded instantly.

Arnold is now 46, her disease is in remission and she is married to the academy’s staff veterinarian.

In the last 20 years, Canine Assistants has given away 1,000 dogs; there is a waiting list of nearly 2,000. The organization does not charge for the dogs, and will pay for food and vet bills for the life of the dogs, if needed. The recipients are asked to do community service in return.

Canine Assistants breeds its own dogs, and trains rescue and shelter dogs. There are 150 dogs in training year-round. About 5 percent fail to make the program and are placed as pets.

It costs about $22,000 to train a service dog, Arnold said.

The book can be pre-ordered from Random House.