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Tag: service

Great Dane helps girl find her balance

Fifth grader Bella Burton has gained both confidence and mobility since a service dog came into her life last year — a dog that outweighs her three to one.

George, a Great Dane who tips the scales at 131, was paired with Bella through the Service Dog Project, an Ipswich, Mass.-based non-profit organization that trains and matches Great Danes with people who have mobility and balance limitations.

Bella, who turned 11 last week, has a rare genetic disorder called Morquio Syndrome, or Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS) IV.

“She used to pretty much be confined to a wheelchair or have to use crutches to get around, but with George, she’s become so much stronger and active,” said Bella’s mom, Rachel.

Since George loped into the picture late last year Bella has gone from dreading school to enjoying it.

“I couldn’t play on the playground, and I had to use crutches when I was at home,” Bella said. “Now, I’m running outside and I love to go to school.”

Bella and George were featured on ABC News last week.

Next month, George will be honored by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as one of five dogs to receive the Award for Canine Excellence, at the AKC’s national championships in Orlando, Fla.

The Burtons spent about a year trying to find Bella the right balance support dog. Once Bella met George, the two bonded almost immediately.

Last October George started staying with the Burtons on weekends. By January, George was permanently placed with the Burtons, who have two other non-service dogs.

Bella and family plan to donate the $1,000 cash prize from the AKC to the Service Dog Project.

“Between the training and adoption fees, it probably costs around $20,000,” Rachel said. “They didn’t want a dime when they placed George with us.”

CEO who kicked dog charged with cruelty

The CEO who was drummed out of his job after video surfaced of him mistreating a dog on an elevator has been charged with causing an animal distress.

Desmond Hague, who lost his job last year after the video went public, was head of Centerplate, the food service giant that contracts with stadiums across the country.

He was charged Friday with two civil violations of causing an animal distress. The charges were filed in Provincial Court in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the incident took place — inside a luxury downtown high rise on July 27, 2014.

hagueHe is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 24, according to U-T San Diego.

Conviction of the charges can carry fines up to $75,000 and two years imprisonment, but it’s considered unlikely that Hague will see any jail time.

The video showed Hague kicking the dog — a one-year-old Doberman pinscher — and jerking her off the ground by her leash.

Around the world, the widely shared video sparked anger among dog lovers and calls for the CEO to be immediately fired.

Hague, who had been walking the dog, named Sade, for a friend, issued a public apology. Centerplate, after its board initially stood behind Hague, placed him on probation and ordered him to take anger management classes, donate $100,000 to a nonprofit to assist abused animals and perform 1,000 hours of community service.

When all of that did little to quell the continuing public outrage, the company forced Hague to resign.

Sade was taken into protective custody, and has since been returned to her owner, said Lorie Chortyk of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Canada.

Hague is not permitted to see Sade under terms of the dog’s release back to her owner, Chortyk said.

(Photo: Twitter)

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.

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)

Florida vet reunited with his service dog

A disabled Army veteran whose service dog went missing after a car accident will soon be reunited with her.

“I am totally ecstatic … If I had two legs, I’d do a back flip!” 7-year Army veteran Luke Macner, of Tampa, said upon learning Nina, his German shepherd-Rottweiler mix had been found.

Macner broke his collar bone in the car accident, but in interviews afterwards he was more worried about what happened to Nina, his constant companion since he lost his leg.

“I’m lost without the dog. I really am,” he told WTSP at the time.

“Please, let somebody find you and please bring you back to me,” he pleaded.

After the accident, the dog was found wandering in South Tampa by Amy Abdnour.

While she was playing with the dog another woman, who had seen news reports about the missing dog, approached Abdnour.

“A lady said, ‘Do you know this dog has been on the news?’” Abdnour said.

After a call to the Humane Society, she got in touch with Macner.

Macner plans to reclaim the dog when he gets released from the hospital.

Marine’s support dog shot by police

A former Marine sniper’s support dog was shot by police in Dacono, Colo., after escaping from his yard and acting in what police say was an aggressive manner.

Mongo, a 3-year-old pit bull, is recovering from a gunshot wound to the chest.

His owner, James Vester, is seeking an explanation and an apology from police, whose behavior, he noted, seemed more like something you’d see on the streets of Iraq.

“I didn’t think I would see that again. You see it in Iraq — and then you see your best friend here get shot,” said Vester, who got Mongo, a certified emotional support dog, to alleviate stress after returning from combat.

Vester said he was doing yard work when Mongo got loose. A neighbor called police because Mongo began barking at her dogs from across a fence. When two officers arrived, Mongo barked and growled and lunged at one of them, according to police reports.

Some neighbors disputed the police account, according to Fox 31 News in Denver.

“There was no noise at first, I just heard the gunshot — then the dog started crying,” said Heather Viera, who was told by police to go back inside her home when she stepped outside.

Another neighbor, Jenny Stevens, says she was a few hundred feet down the road, walking her dogs, when she heard the shot. She said she didn’t hear any barking or growling before it was fired. “It was dead silent. There was not a bark, there wasn’t a growl. The cop did not say stop to the dog, the cop didn’t yell anything.”

Dacono Police Chief Matthew B. Skaggs said an investigation was being conducted.

“I think it is important to remember these things develop very quickly,” the chief said. “If you look in the report, the officer did say specifically that the dog got within six feet of him and at that point he felt like it was his only option.”

Darling won’t you ease my worried mind

Layla — a dog most appropriately named for this particular story — has become the subject of a custody battle in Pittsburgh.

A pit bull mix, she served as an unofficial helper to her owner, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. But when he moved to a new apartment, Layla, lacking documentation as a service dog, wasn’t allowed to live there.

Tim McGill began working to get Layla certified, and in the meantime asked some friends to look after his 3-year-old dog.

Now McGill has gotten the certification, but he can’t get his dog back.

McGill served in the Army in South Korea and Iraq and left the service with a brain injury, anxiety and flashbacks, KDKA in Pittsburgh reports.

A doctor recommended a dog, and — though Layla wasn’t a certified service dog — having her by his side helped, said McGill, a tattoo artist.

McGill says he moved to a Lawrenceville apartment to go to the Art Institute, but that, without any documentation that Layla was a service dog, she wasn’t permitted to live there.

So he asked a friend, Laura Stratemier, to watch over Layla until he could get her certified. In exchange, he offered to repay her with free tattoos for both her and her husband.

Stratemier admits she was only supposed to have Layla for two weeks, but said that as time went by — six months worth of it — she realized the dog was better off with her.

By the time the certification papers for the dog came through McGill, Stratemier was unwilling to give Layla back.

KDKA reports that local animal control officials are looking into the dispute.