Thursday, September 30, 2010

Breed Bans and Service Dogs

Increasingly, local governments are imposing, or attempting to impose, ownership restrictions or outright bans on certain breeds within their jurisdiction. The breeds most commonly singled out are Rottweilers, American Staffordshire Bull Terriers ("Pit Bulls"), Chow Chows, German Shepherd Dogs, and Doberman Pinschers. What happens if you have a service dog of one of these breeds?

This conflict between local law and federal law (the ADA) is currently playing out in Denver, CO. Denver has had a ban on "pit bulls" for many years and the law has withstood several court challenges.

A lawsuit has been filed on the behalf of three litigants by the Animal Law Center. They believe that the ADA prohibits any dog breed from being banned as a service animal. The Denver City Council is currently working on legislation that will bring city law into compliance with the ADA; however, concerns exist that citizens without a legitimate service animal need will use this as a "backdoor" into legal pit bull ownership.

We will keep an eye on this story and bring you any updats..

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ask the Appeal: Can You Ask Someone For Service Animal "Proof?"

When a person says to you that their dog is a service dog are they required to prove to you that they have a doctor's order for a companion dog?

Two incidents that bring context to my question. Shortly after Diane Whipple was killed the Animal Control and Welfare Commission held a hearing to consider a requirement to muzzle pit bulls and rottweilers. About 350 showed up and about 100 brought their dogs. The room was way overcrowded. A sheriff officer stopped one of the people with a dog and advised him not to enter. That person told him he had a doctor order for a companion dog he could take the dog wherever he wanted. The officer told him he wasn't questioning his rights, he just wanted him to know it was very crowded. The guy didn't make it the length of the room before his dog got into a nasty, growling, snarling, barking fight with another dog. No one was hurt.

Last night I was at a community meeting at a clubhouse when a person with one of those plastic ball throwers in one hand and a leashed golden retriever on the other hand walked to the front of the room. When informed by a person standing next to me that dogs weren't allowed in the clubhouse the person said, "This is my service dog it goes with me wherever I go and whenever I want." Pause. "You're being very rude by questioning me." The person standing next to me replied, "Well it doesn't look like a service dog." At that point I intervened and said, "We didn't know it was a service dog, now we do, what do you want?"

I suspect the answer might lie along the even if I have the right it is better not to argue with someone needs a four legged security blanket when in public.

Linda, a SF Animal Care and Control representative, told me a person can prove his or her pet is a service animal with at least one of three things: the required tag, an affidavit from the city shelter, and/or a doctor's letter. While any one of these should suffice, Linda said a doctor's letter is the only mandated item according to the Americans With Disabilities Act and therefore a service animal owner's best bet.

However, when I called the Department of Justice's ADA information line to double check, a spokeswoman told me that one isn't required to show any information - not even a doctor's note - in most cases.

"Unless a person is trying to get a job or find a place to live," she said, "[s/he] doesn't have to show any tangible proof that the pet is a service animal."

(It's wise to remember that a person's disability might not be evident to the naked eye, so visually evaluating the person with the animal is rarely a good idea.)

Besides, of course, considering how important it is to you to ensure the rules are being followed in any given situation, what should someone (say, a business owner) do if faced with a situation where they think a non-disabled person's trying to pull the pet equivalent of bogarting a blue spot?

"You can ask what kind of training the animal has received," the spokeswoman said, "and then decide for yourself whether you want to treat [the animal] as a service animal or otherwise."

In any case, according to the ADA:

"A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the animal is out of control and the animal's owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others."

Think of "Ask the Appeal" as your own personal genie: no Bay-related question is too big or too small. Whether you're concerned with a municipal question, a consumer advocacy issue or simply with consuming alcohol, email us your questions at (or, find answers to past questions here). We'll either do the dirty work and talk to the folks in charge, contact an expert in the field, or - if your question is particularly intriguing or juicy - develop it into a full-blown investigative article.

by Katie Baker

September 9, 2010 9:50 AM

Thursday, September 16, 2010

service dog a hero guards student against illness - The Collegian - Hillsdale

By T. Elliot Gaiser
Published: Thursday, September 16, 2010

People are always talking to Sydney Bruno about dogs.

Mostly one dog in particular - the 17- year-old freshman has a constant companion, her service dog named Toby.

Toby's job is to save Sydney's life. He is trained to alert her and others nearby if her blood sugar goes too high or too low.

Sydney was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in May 2008 when she was 15 years old, which means her body cannot produce insulin, a chemical necessary in regulating blood sugar.

"I lost 20 pounds in two weeks," she said.

Sydney is excellent at managing her own blood sugar for someone her age, said Melissa Bruno, her mother.

"She counts all the carbs' gets up in the middle of the night to adjust'" she said. "Sydney's always weighing - counting everything."

But the condition is more serious than most people realize and even the slightest human error can have serious consequences.

"It can cause blindness, heart attacks and other awful conditions eventually. No matter how hard you work, (an episode) can sneak up on you,,"Melissa Bruno said.

The family was prompted to look for other options after a terrifying overnight field trip last fall. Sydney woke up feeling fine in the morning and headed to the bathroom for a drink of water. Without warning, she lost vision and hearing and nearly passed out before a fellow student went for help.

"My sugar was low. If someone weren't there, I don't know what would have happened," Sydney said.

With college on the horizon, the Bruno family decided there had to be a way for Sydney to enjoy the security of a constant "someone" who could always be there.

Enter Toby.

After some online research, Melissa Bruno discovered the relatively new advent of service dogs trained to detect changes in blood sugar.

"I thought, "dogs could do anything." They have dogs to help with epilepsy, so why not diabetes, too?" she said.

Because dogs can smell the chemical acetone, which is naturally released when blood sugar shifts, they can be trained to bark or paw their companions when they sense fluctuations.

"Dogs are more sensitive than the technology," said Melissa Bruno. "They can alert you 45 minutes before a machine would."

The family contacted Julie Noyes, a certified dog trainer in Colorado whose primary line of work was providing cadaver-finding dogs used by the Federal Emergency Management Administration during disaster relief operations, she said.

Service dogs in Toby's line of work are selected and begin training as "early as possible" when they are puppies, usually "within six to eight weeks," said Noyes. Their personalities must be just the right combination of obedience and persistence to facilitate training while allowing the dogs to insist in an emergency, Melissa Bruno said.

Soon, Sydney was self-inducing blood sugar highs and lows while wearing clothes washed with scentless detergent, mailed on dry ice from Michigan to Colorado.

By February of this year, the Bruno family welcomed the 6-month-old American Labrador into their home. He was on the job from day one, said Melissa Bruno.

"He barked to alert her at our first meal together."

Now Sydney travels with Toby everywhere - from classrooms, to Saga, to her dorm room where he lives with her in McIntyre Hall. Anywhere she goes, the law requires Toby be granted access.

"He's been with me to the movies," she said, smiling.

In high school, Sydney said, Toby was more popular than she was.

Toby can be challenging, however.

"It can be difficult, making sure he gets to meals on time," she said.

Toby's life can be difficult as well, said Melissa Bruno. The family cannot treat him like a pet and must ignore him whenever possible.

"Service dogs have to be able to live in public," said Noyes.

But the family is happy with the reception they have received at Hillsdale.

"All my professors are very nice about him," Sydney said. After rearranging her class schedule, "my old professor told me she would miss Toby," she said.

Melissa Bruno emphasized how glad she is that Sydney has Toby for a safe guard.

"I can sleep much better. He is a hero."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

D.C. Cab Drivers Aren’t Fond of Blind People with Guide Dogs, Study Shows

Posted by Emily Kaiser on Sep. 1, 2010 at 11:22 am

In the ERC study, cabbies passed blind customers for sighted passengers 50 percent of the time.
Seeing person or blind person with a guide dog? A recent civil rights watchdog group study showed that D.C. cabbies will pass by the blind person and their dog in favor of a sighted person down the road 50 percent of the time. Busted!
The Equal Rights Center study was based on 30 tests in the District. A blind person with a service dog was placed up the street so they would be seen by the cab driver first. A person who wasn't blind and didn't have a service dog stood on the same side of the street after the blind person. In 15 of the 30 tests, the cab driver drove past the blind person and picked up the sighted person without the dog. In three of the tests, the cab driver attempted to add a surcharge to the blind person's fare for transporting the dog. Under ADA and D.C. law, charging people with disabilities or service animals extra is illegal.

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