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Tag: service dogs

Dog walks into a bar

acebar


Our forefathers may have overlooked listing it in the Constitution, but I’d rank it up there with free speech, religious freedom and the right to bear arms… maybe even above the right to bear arms:

It’s the right to get a beer at a bar with your dog — one of life’s true pleasures, assuming you love beer and love dogs (and assuming it’s cool with the bar owner).

SONY DSCI’ve always felt, and often written, that allowing dogs into a drinking establishment — especially one that doesn’t serve food — is a decision that should be left up to individual tavern operators.

Local health departments, often, don’t see it that way, as was recently the case in New York City, where The Gate, a tavern in Park Slope, was told it can no longer allow patrons to come in with their dogs.

The city Department of Health based their order on a law prohibiting any live animal from being in a food service establishment.

The Gate is not a restaurant, but, under the law, beer, wine, booze and ice are considered foods.

Silly? Yes.

Unconstitutional? Should be, I say, tongue not entirely in cheek.

All 50 states allow residents to carry concealed guns outside their homes. Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio have laws specifically allowing guns in bars. Bar patrons in South Carolina and North Carolina also aren’t required to disarm when entering a bar.

Twenty states, including New York and New Jersey, do not address the question of guns in bars at all.

It makes me uncomfortable, living in a world (and a state) where guns have more rights, privileges and protections than dogs.

And it gives me pause (not paws, for that would be a pun), that local health departments can get so worked up about a hound sleeping on a bar floor when Ebola is at our doorstep. Don’t they have more important things to do?

But back to The Gate.

After the health department laid down the law at the corner of 5th Avenue and 3rd Street, management posted a sign on the door of the tavern, saying, “with apologies to our furry friends,” dogs could no longer be allowed.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn pet owners have started a petition on the website Park Slope for Pets (see the upper right corner of that page) asking the Health Department to “allow dogs at The Gate” and reclassify bars that don’t serve food. As of this morning, nearly 600 signatures had been collected.

“We support The Gate’s dog-friendly status in the neighborhood as well as all other non-food drinking establishments that welcome dogs,” the petition’s sponsors say. “We are not looking for an exception for The Gate but rather a revision to the statute with regard to all non-food drinking establishments.”

SONY DSCI hold an even more radical stance. I’m for letting well-behaved dogs into places that do serve food, and even inside, as opposed to the patio (given it’s OK with the owner).

I’m more concerned with what’s going on unseen in the kitchen than the possibility of evil germs hopping off a dog and onto my plate of mozzarella sticks.

If its OK for service dogs to go inside restaurants, it should be OK for all well-socialized dogs — because all dogs, in a way, are service dogs.

My dog Ace, a one-time therapy dog who now counsels only me (and at a very reasonable fee) grew up spending some time (but not an inordinate amount of time) at a neighborhood bar in Baltimore I patronized.

I like to think he added to the bar’s character, and warmth, and friendliness, and vice versa. Admittedly, he also served as a social crutch for me, making conversations easier to start, making me more comfortable, keeping me from getting too tongue tied.

Just as dogs need to be socialized, so do we. And dogs and bars — independently and especially in combination — can help those of us who have difficulty in that area achieve that.

Dogs in bars lead to more social dogs, and more social people. (With the exception of those humans who are aghast by the prospect of a dog in a bar or restaurant and feel the need to file an official complaint, as opposed to just avoiding the establishment.)

“One of my favorite parts about going to The Gate was that I could enjoy a quiet night out without the lingering guilt of knowing my dog was waiting for me at home,” one dog owner told Park Slope Stoop. “… It’s disappointing that they are losing part of their character because of the DOH’s overreach in enforcing the Health Law.”

thegateWhile the city health department is barking out orders, the proprietor of The Gate, we’re pleased to read, isn’t just going to roll over.

The Gate’s owner, Bobby Gagnon, reportedly plans to fight the health department edict when he appears before the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings on Nov. 18 — not so much to be granted an exception as to clarify the law.

Dog owners need to push back from time to time, as opposed to just letting themselves be pushed around. I think that happens because dog owners are generally calm, easy-going, reasonable, level-headed people (thanks, at least in part, to their dogs), and because they realize having a dog — whether it’s a right or not — is truly a privilege.

Maybe if dog owners got political, played dirty, sported bumper stickers and insisted on exercising the right to have a Bud with their bud, we could resolve the problem, short of a Constitutional amendment.

Maybe if dog owners could be as strident and overbearing as gun lobbyists, they could enjoy more freedoms with their dogs.

Maybe, when authorities come to take our dogs out of a bar in which he or she is otherwise welcome, we should say, “Sure, you can take my dog out of this establishment … when you pry the leash out of my cold dead fingers.”

Maybe someday the Supreme Court will address the burning questions: Is ice food? And even if so, do we have a right to walk into a bar with our dog?

I’m sure critics will say it’s frivolous of me to compare taking your terrier to a tavern with our right to tote firearms, or our Constitutionally granted freedoms of religion and speech.

But are they really that different?

My dog protects me, like a gun. My dog nourishes and consoles me, like a religion. And he frees up my speech better than the First Amendment ever did.

(Photos: Ace and his friend Stringer at a Recreation Billiards, a dog friendly bar in Winston-Salem, Ace at The Dog Bar in Charlotte, and a Great Dane at The Dog Bar, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; sign outside The Gate in New York, from Park Slope Stoop)

Uber rude: Guide dog forced to ride in trunk

Uber Technologies Inc. signage stands inside the company's office prior to Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, speaking in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 24, 2014. Rubio addressed the need to adapt antiquated government regulations to increase economic opportunities for the 21st century and outdated regulations limit consumer choice. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg ORG XMIT: 480784803The National Federation of the Blind in California has filed a lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc., saying its drivers have refused to transport blind people who use guide dogs and, in one instance, forced a guide dog to ride in the trunk of a car.

One registered Uber driver in Sacramento put a passenger’s guide dog in the trunk while transporting her, and refused to pull over after the customer realized where the animal was, according to the lawsuit.

Other blind riders with service animals have been refused service and harassed, the National Federation of the Blind of California alleges in a civil rights complaint filed this week in San Francisco federal court.

Uber is a ride-hailing app that connects its registered drivers with riders. It is up and running in more than 70 U.S. cities.

While the company does set guidelines for the drivers — and pretty much any schmo can be one — it points out those drivers are independent contractors, and that the company cannot be expected to be able to fully control their behavior. (Or, it follows, be held legally liable for it.)

Uber, like Lyft Inc. and other car-booking companies, are seeking to crack open the $11 billion U.S. taxi and limousine market, according to Bloomberg News.

Through the app, they hook up people needing rides with registered drivers offering one, and take a cut of the fares collected — in effect collecting money while doing none of the actual physical work, and avoiding any actual responsibility.

The federation filed the lawsuit based on complaints from more than 30 blind customers nationwide who have been denied rides because they had guide dogs — a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and California civil rights laws.

The advocacy group says the company monitors and controls interactions between drivers and customers, and should adopt and enforce policies to prevent discrimination against blind people with service animals. It is seeking a court order declaring the company discriminates against blind customers with guide dogs, and measures that would ensure that drivers don’t refuse rides to the vision-impaired.

“The Uber app is built to expand access to transportation options for all, including users with visual impairments and other disabilities,” said Eva Behrend, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Uber. “It is Uber’s policy that any driver partner that refuses to transport a service animal will be deactivated from the Uber platform.”

What action, if any, was taken against the driver who allegedly put a guide dog in a car trunk wasn’t specified, but we think he deserves a lot more than being “deactivated.”

 

Recipients say agency’s diabetic alert dogs aren’t performing as promised

Three North Texas families say the diabetic alert dogs they received from a Virginia-based nonprofit aren’t alerting them to anything, and have turned out to be nothing more than expensive house pets.

The three families are among 30 that have filed complaints against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, according to NBC 5 in Dallas.

Each of the three paid up to $20,000 for what they were told were specialized service dogs trained to alert them to spikes and drops in blood sugar and help them manage Type 1 diabetes.

Mindy Guidry said the dog she received to help her daughter manage her diabetes has failed to detect any blood sugar spirals. On top of that, the dog is afraid to go out in public.

“I cannot take her out in public at all. Even in our own household she’s scared,” Guidry said.

Krista Middleton told NBC 5 that her dog doesn’t alert her when her blood sugar is dropping dangerously low.

“And then I’m passing out. I’m going into comas. My kids are finding me in seizures,” said Middleton. “It gets to the point where, as a mom, I wanted to make sure my kids weren’t the ones to find me convulsing.”

Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers says it offers a one- to two-year training program with initial in-home sessions of up to five days, long-distance training and education and up to seven more multi-day visits.

Middleton and Guidry both failed to complete the training program, a spokeswoman for the agency said, and both still owe the agency money.

Middleton said when she informed the non-profit her dog wasn’t working, she got no response.

But Warren Retrievers spokeswoman Jennifer Bulotti told NBC 5 when a dog isn’t working “instant intervention and training is provided.”

Dan Warren, founder and president of the nonprofit, was convicted of passing forged documents in 2008, before he started his service dog agency. While working at a car dealership, he had someone prepare phony tax returns to help customers get loans for cars, NBC 5 reported. He was sentenced to five years’ probation

Tax records from 2012 list his salary from the service dog agency as $157,411.

The Virginia Attorney General’s office has received 30 complaints against Warren Retrievers, but declined to discuss the details of any of them.

Providers of service dogs operate relatively free of government regulation or required standards, and some think it’s time for that to change.

“This is an industry that’s fraught with fraud,” said Brent Brooks, president of The Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance (DADA). “It angers me to have to say it but you have to be skeptical.”

Best Western could do better


You’d think a big hotel-motel chain would know and share the rules when it comes to service dogs — even one whose inns are “individually owned and operated.”

By federal law, service dogs are allowed. No ifs, ands or buts.

But a Best Western in Baton Rouge, citing its policy prohibiting dogs, recently denied reservations to a North Carolina family whose golden retriever serves as an epilepsy alert dog to their 13-year-old son, Beau.

Chip goes everywhere with Beau, who has a rare type of epilepsy called Landau-Kleffner Syndrome. “Chip alerts us to when Beau is having a seizure,” Beau’s mother, Karen Vaughn, told KPLC.

But after Vaughn made an online reservation at a Best Western in Baton Rouge, pointing out that service dog Chip would be among their party, the motel notified her that the reservation was being refused because the inn doesn’t allow dogs.

Vaughn, who is an attorney specializing in the rights of children with special needs, said that after she raised a stink the corporate office called back, a week later, saying they would honor the reservation. She said no thanks.

Normally, we would say sue the pants off the motel’s individual owner, and sue the pants off Best Western corporate honchos, too.

But Best Western has an unusual corporate structure — one they’ve argued doesn’t comprise a profit-making corporation, but is more of a cooperative. All hotels are individually owned and operated, and Best Western, from its headquarters in Phoenix, provides only reservations, marketing, brand identity and support services.

Individual owners of Best Western inns are allowed to make their own rules — but not rules that violate federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A Best Western spokesman told ohmidog! that the Baton Rouge motel has been temporarily banned from representing itself as a Best Western hotel.

“Best Western International has restricted the hotel on our reservations systems and we have required the hotel to stop representing itself as a Best Western branded hotel (cover or remove all Best Western signs and logos) until its representatives attend a hearing at our corporate headquarters at which their future association with Best Western will be decided,” he said.

“Best Western International requires each independently owned and operated hotel to comply with all federal, state and local laws and standards, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We provide extensive training to ensure our hotels understand and address the needs of guests with special needs. When this matter came to our attention, we immediately provided direction to the hotel and a reservation was offered to the family.

“We deeply regret the matter and we will continue to proactively communicate ADA requirements and training to Best Western branded hotels to ensure all guests are treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”

Best Western’s website boasts about their 1,600 pet-friendly locations.

Pit bull accepts diploma for his master

A pit bull received a diploma at Idaho State University’s graduation ceremony last Saturday, walking on stage in place of his master, who died in February.

Cletus, a black and white pit bull, belonged to Joshua Kelly, and was the geology student’s service dog.

Kelly, who had epilepsy, was finishing his final two classes when he was hospitalized and died on Feb. 13.

Cletus accompanied Kelly to school daily, walking two miles to catch a 6:30 a.m. bus from Idaho Falls to ISU.

When Kelly suffered a seizure and fell, as he did a few times, Cletus would stand over him until the seizure ended.

On Saturday, Cletus, accompanied by Kelly’s father, Terrell, walked on stage to claim Joshua’s diploma. Joshua received a bachelor of science degree in geology posthumously, KIDK reported.

Terrell Kelly said he’d never been a fan of pit bulls, until Cletus.

“I’ll be honest. I was one of them that was giving them (pit bulls) a bad rep until I met Cletus. And he allows our little grandchildren to climb on him, pull his ears, pull his tail. He’s just great.”

After accepting the diploma, with Cletus at his side, Terrell held the folder in the air and said, “This is for Josh.”

Did you hear the one about the guide dog in a nudist community?

fowlerandlauraA homeowner’s association at Paradise Lakes Resort doesn’t have weight limits when it comes to human residents, and we guess that’s a good thing — even though the condo community is a clothing-optional one.

But the association’s rules run a little stricter for dogs, including one that bans any dogs over 25 pounds — apparently even when it’s a guide dog that belongs to a legally blind resident of the nudist community.

By now you’ve probably guessed that this can only be happening in Florida, specifically in Lutz, where a homeowner’s association has told Sharon Fowler she needs to get rid of her black Labrador, Laura, or move out, according to a lawsuit.

Fowler filed a lawsuit against the association last year. It was dismissed by one judge, but now that dismissal has been overturned by an appeals court, and Fowler has renewed her fight to keep the dog she says she can’t get around without.

“She helps me to get around curbs and obstacles,” Fowler told the Tampa Bay Times.  “She’s 100 percent necessary to me. She’s my lifeline.”

According to a lawsuit filed last year, Fowler received a letter from the association telling her to get rid of the dog or move out.

The association said the dog violated their weight limits — something that wasn’t pointed out when Fowler filled out an application, disclosing the dog’s weight, when she moved in.

Even when Fowler provided documentation of her disability, the association did not withdraw the notice of the violations, according to the lawsuit.

“I felt demeaned, and I felt degraded,” Fowler said. “I’ve never felt so degraded.”

Her lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages for mental anguish.

“It’s the principle of the fact,” Fowler’s husband, Craig, said. “The board needs to know they cannot bully us around.”

Fowler says she has been told to only walk the dog in specific areas, and stay out of the way of pedestrians. She’s also been told her dog is out of control, which she says is not the case.

“My dog is a highly trained service animal,” she said.

“Paradise Lakes Resort does not discriminate against any person with physical disabilities and does not prevent any person with service animals from visiting the resort,” owner Jerry Buchanan said.

Fowler’s accusations were directed at a homeowners condominium association not connected with the resort.

Fowler says she has a rare autoimmune disease called leukocytoclastic vasculitis, which has already affected her sight and could affect her hearing.

She doesn’t want to move because she has learned her way around Paradise Lakes, and appreciates being able to live in a clothing optional community.

(Photo: Fowler and Laura; by Brendan Fitterer / Tampa Bay Times)

Judge shuts down “seizure dog” business

Jon C. Sabin, ordered by a judge last week to stop training and selling service dogs to families of sick children, says any instances of his dogs not performing properly were the fault of the families.

“The dogs are trained when I’m there, but after I leave everything goes to hell in a handbasket,” said Sabin, who was accused by the New York Attorney General’s Office of duping more than a dozen families into believing the dogs he sold them — for as much as $20,000 each – were trained.

Sabin, who ran Seizure Alert Dogs For Life, was ordered by a judge last week to never again train or sell service dogs.

He has promised to fight the ruling, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, according to the Watertown Daily Times.

Sabin said families who have complained about their dogs have only themselves to blame — for not following through with the training plans that he made for them and for treating the service dogs like pets even though he advised them not to, according to Syracuse.com

“You don’t put these dogs in your bed. You don’t give them meatballs from the kitchen table,” Sabin said.

Sabin was sued by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for selling more than a dozen families untrained dogs he said could detect and control seizures in their ill children.

Court papers described how the families paid thousands of dollars for the dogs only to find they couldn’t detect seizures, much less do anything about them.

Sabin says he suffers from epileptic seizures, and that he developed his program after his medication failed to control them. Sabin estimated that, since 2009, he has sold and trained about 50 dogs

Not all of his customers are unhappy. The Stevens family in Washington D.C. bought a dog from Sabin three years ago for their son, Andrew, who has a severe form of epilepsy. The dog has detected hundreds of seizures and swiped the magnet on her collar over Andrew’s chest, activating a device in the child’s chest that stimulates his vagus nerve and stops the seizure, according to the family.

The state says Sabin “deceptively promoted dogs as ‘highly trained service dogs,’ when in fact he undertook no steps to select appropriate dogs for service work, nor did he undertake any relevant training of these animals prior to selling them.”

A judge last Tuesday issued permanent injunctions prohibiting Sabin and his company from advertising or selling dogs trained to assist people suffering from epilepsy or other medical conditions.