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Service Dogs: What to Do if Your Service Dog is Denied Public Access

April 15th, 2014

Individuals with disabilities who have service dogs should be prepared with knowledge of the law when they enter business establishments. If a dispute occurs over access to the business, then individuals will need to assert their legal rights in a clear and calm manner.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits privately owned businesses that serve the public from discriminating against people with disabilities. These businesses are required to permit access to individuals with disabilities and their service animals. (Note that the ADA does not require churches, private clubs or private homes to permit access to service animals.)

If access is initially denied, the first step is to clearly state that the dog is a service animal and that the Americans with Disabilities Act permits access. Although most people are familiar with guide dogs for the blind, some people may not know about other types of service animals, so a simple statement of the facts and the law may suffice to gain access.

The business is allowed to ask two specific questions: “Is this a service dog required because of a disability?” and “What task is the dog trained to perform?” An individual with a service animal should be prepared to answer these two questions satisfactorily, and be aware that there is no requirement to answer further questions.

Some people with disabilities carry copies of the U.S. Department of Justice’s ADA Business Brief on Service Animals with them, for instance in a pocket of the service dog’s vest. The Brief is a simple statement of the law from the federal government that may convince a business employee who is resistant. Individuals with disabilities are not required to carry this notice, or any other permit or license, with them.

If access is ultimately denied, then the individual should comply, but follow up with the business owner to remedy the situation. Reasonable remedies to ask for include training for employees regarding service animal access, or a sign on the door that confirms that service animals are permitted. If a business owner continues to deny access, then a complaint may be filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Services for People with Special Needs: Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD)

August 30th, 2012

This week, we interviewed a service organization that assists people with disabilities and special needs, Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD).  Since 1997, ECAD has been training and placing assistance dogs to help people with disabilities to gain independence and mobility. We spoke with ECAD advocate, Lee O’Brien-Rothman, and Communications and Public Relations Manager, Patricia Robert to find out more about the services they offer to people with special needs.

I am a retired disabled Police Officer who has spent 14 years serving my community. Brady came into my life after it was turned upside down by and on duty incident and subsequent PTSD. Being trapped in the wet blanket that is PTSD I became depressed and cut off from the entire outside world. Through Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities, ECAD, I was chosen by a smart but goofy and kind golden retriever that immediately brought a smile to my face and a spark back in my life. ”

– Lee O’Brien-Rothman and Brady graduated from ECAD in May 2011. Since then, the two have become tireless advocates for ECAD and for Assistance Dogs. Brady O’Brien-Rothman has a Facebook page with thousands and thousands of friends.

How can people find out about ECAD:

People can visit our website, WWW.ECAD1.ORG or contact www.assistancedogsinternational.org, a coalition of non-for-profit organizations that train and place assistance dogs.

Do people have to qualify for a dog? If so, how?

People who apply for an ECAD educated Service Dog are always interviewed by our co-founder and Director of all programs, Lu-Picard. After they have filled out and submitted the completed application form, they can visit the main training facility, located in Dobbs Ferry. ECAD Service Dogs are educated to assist people with a wide range of disabilities, including adults, teens, even children as young as two, who have autism. It isn’t so much “qualifying” as it is following through with the determination to learn how to train/be responsible for a Service Dog by participating in the two-week team training sessions that are held several times each year. ECAD does not educate dogs for vision or hearing alerts.

How to apply for an ECAD Service Dog:

Information about applications can be found on ECAD’s website, or by calling the main office at 914-693-0600 ext.1958 and asking for the client liaison person.

What breeds of dogs are used as ECAD Service Dogs?

ECAD primarily trains golden retrievers, and Labradors, and a Lab-Great-Dane mix, all for their good temperament and intelligence. All ECAD Service Dogs are educated to respond to 80+ commands, including the retrieval of dropped objects, the pulling of wheelchairs, turning light switches on and off, loading and unloading the wash, reminding their person to take medication, alerting people with sleep disorders when they don’t respond to an alarm, and many other things. In addition to helping with physical problems, our service dogs are also trained assist people with emotional or psychological problems that stem from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – problems that are being experienced by many veterans in recent years.

Tell us a bit more about ECAD’s Programs.

ECAD’s mission is to enable people with disabilities to gain greater independence and mobility through the use of specially educated dogs. Our programs include:

  • Project HEAL: a program that honors and empowers veterans and service members by addressing both visible and invisible disabilities. It entails a transition program that focuses specifically to re-adapt to a civilian culture by bridging the gap through a modified Service Dog Training program.
  • Canine Magic Service Dogs: a program in which ECAD Service Dogs are trained to assist children with Autism through emotional bonding, socialization, cognitive development and safety.
  • Open Doors: Service Dogs can be found working in public and private homes, hospitals, courthouses and nursing homes to help people with both physical and emotional disabilities.
  • ECADemy: a vocational curriculum administered at alternative schools specializing in helping children and teens with emotional, behavioral and social problems. All of these Service Dogs are trained by these students.

Can People Volunteer?

ECAD is a non-for-profit organization – volunteers are ALWAYS welcome at ECAD. There are many opportunities including:

–       Assisting in the main office

–       Grant writing

–       Becoming a home handler

–       Transporting ECAD Service Dogs to in-home trainings (on weekends only)

For more information on volunteering at ECAD, contact Tara at 914-693-0600 ext.1950.


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