Guide dogs are nothing new. Most commonly known for helping people who are blind navigate the world around them, they are gaining use in helping people with other types of disabilities. Also called service dogs, some are now being used by war veterans with post traumatic stress disorders. The more service dog use increases, the more likely they will be part of the traveler’s scene. Unfortunately, not everyone who works in the service industry knows the laws and rules that protect service dog owners. This has created a few snafus.
There is a current lawsuit against McDonald’s for a situation that started with the refusal of service. When Luis Carlos Montalván, a former U.S. army captain who was wounded in Iraq, came to a McDonald’s in Brooklyn with his service dog, he was told he could not bring the dog inside. Montalván complained to the company CEO which resulted in a sign installed at the restaurant indicating that service dogs are welcome.
The lawsuit came about after this incident because Montalván claims that when he returned to this McDonald’s after the sign was installed, he was denied service by a different manager. When Montalván later came back with a camera to take a picture of the sign that said he should be able to have service, two employees accosted him.
In another recent guide dog incident, a blind couple and their dog were denied boarding on a Jetstar plane in Australia even though the airline does allow people with service dogs to fly. [Jaunted]
In both of these cases, the problem arose because the people who worked for the organization weren’t aware of the rules of an organization or the law. I would bet they hadn’t come across someone with a service dog before either. As much as a service dog looks like a regular dog, it’s not. Guide dogs are not pets.
What are the laws anyway? In the U.S. the Department of Justice outlines them quite clearly. In essence, a person with a service dog cannot be denied service. Period–except from what I can tell from reading the guidelines, if the dog is barking during a movie or if it acts up somewhere. Since service dogs are taught not to bark or act up, such behavior would be unlikely.
If you do see a service dog, don’t pet it when its harness is on. That means it’s “working” with an important job to do.