As we approach National Service Dog Month in September, people must learn about how helpful these canine companions are to those they have been designated to serve. It is not without a reason that an entire month was dedicated to raising public awareness. The recent case of a disabled woman who was shamed for having a service dog at a hair salon is proof the public is still ignorant of the purpose service dogs serve, and misconceptions are still many. Besides learning the story of the disabled woman, also read on to find out the legal implications of actions towards those with service animals.
She blames the shaming on lack of education
Brenda Osborne has had Lucy, her trained service dog, for about 11 years, and she even was the ring bearer at Brenda’s wedding. Therefore, it is no surprise that she describes the little Chihuahua as more than an accessory as most people assume she is; to her, Lucy is her best friend and lifesaver. Unlike the sassy and feisty Chihuahuas you might have come across or probably watched on “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” Lucy is calm. Therefore when she notices that her owner is about to have a panic attack, she licks Brenda’s cheek giving Brenda a 15-minute window to prepare herself. All the same, Lucy gets a chance to show her Chihuahua side by preventing strangers who might want to help Brenda because that would only increase her anxiety.
Having developed such a strong bond, Brenda does not go anywhere without Lucy, so even when she put on her mask and headed to Great Clips in Heath, Ohio, Lucy had to accompany her. Brenda acknowledges that not everyone is receptive to Lucy; hence she usually announces that she is a service dog, as she did at the hair salon. Unfortunately, they did not care; hence the staff humiliated her forcing Brenda to leave; at least there was one person how empathized with Brenda, but there is nothing she could do.
Brenda feels that her humiliation could have been avoided if only the public was educated. According to 6 On Your Side, the disabled woman wants people to know that a service dog can be of any breed, and it does not have to wear a vest. The salon owner, Debbie Tillery, took it upon herself to apologize to Brenda calling the incident a “misunderstanding” because Great Clips permits humans with their service animals. Debbie added that Brenda and Lucy were welcome again, but first impressions count, so it is unlikely that the disabled woman and her service dog will ever go for a haircut at the salon.
An almost similar incident happened in Britain
Helen Colson and her friend each had their guide dogs when they boarded the Arriva bus. Unfortunately, the bus driver refused to drive until they wore their masks. What made it worse is that he would tell the other passengers about the two disabled women and kept pointing them out, maybe blaming them for the delay. Helen and her friend could feel anxiety creeping on them as they wondered if they would be attacked.
All this while, the driver and passengers did not bother to understand why the two women did not have masks on-they are deaf-blind and depend on lip-reading to communicate. Helen is also asthmatic hence not legally required to don a mask. The bus company apologized for the driver’s behavior and said it would educate its drivers regarding such mask-wearing exemptions. However, the damage has already been done; Helen and her friend no longer feel safe walking in public without covering their faces. She wondered how people could not tell that a person is blind from the cane they carry around or their guide dog. Thus, to her, even if she wore a neon sign indicating her disability, it would not make a difference.
Should Lucy have been allowed in the hair salon?
Brenda refers to Lucy as a service dog that helps alert her of an impending panic attack. A service dog is described as one trained to perform specific tasks to help a person with a disability. The disability can be mental, physical, sensory, or intellectual. Unlike emotional support dogs, service dogs are trained, and Lucy was as disclosed by her owner. Although Lucy could be confused for an emotional support dog, she is not; emotional support dogs provide a calming effect with their mere presence. On the other hand, Lucy has been trained to let Brenda know when she is about to have a panic attack.
If Lucy were an emotional support dog, the hair salon would not have been on the wrong for not allowing her in their premises. However, since she is a service dog, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects her, and she can be allowed into any business or nonprofit organization serving the public. That being said, Brenda has every right to sue the hair salon for refusing to attend to her. Under the law, that is discrimination, and it would not matter even if the salon has a “No Animal” policy.
What more you should know about service dogs
According to The Mighty, service dogs do not have to be registered. You do not need to have any proof that your dog is a service animal, nor are you required to have his training certificate or demonstrate how the dog performs his tasks. Thus, anyone who asks you for any documentation is breaking the law, and you can take legal action against them. Asking for such proof is considered discrimination against a person with a disability. However, if you are a business owner and see a person walk into your “No Animal” premises, you can ask if the canine is a service dog and what it has been trained to perform.