There were two separate reports in the news recently about women with fibromyalgia being denied service because of their service dogs. One involved a Connecticut allergy doctor and the other a Mexican restaurant in Texas.
Connecticut Doctor Turns Away Woman with FM
Danyelle Carter, 24 of Hartford, Connecticut, told Fox CT that Dr. Michael Krall kicked her out of his office when she arrived for her allergy appointment with her service dog, Ziva.
According to Fox CT news reporter Beau Berman, “Danyelle said she called the office two months earlier to confirm it would be okay to bring Ziva and was given the go-ahead by whoever answered the phone… But when she showed up for her February appointment, Dr. Krall kept shouting that he was allergic and said the dog had to leave, according to Danyelle… He said he ‘didn’t care what the law was, he’s the boss’ and to ‘get out of his office,’ and he was just yelling at me,” said Danyelle.”
Dr. Krall reportedly declined to make any “on the record” comments.
According to the Service Animals section of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, “Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.”
When it comes to allergies, the ADA is also has a very specific rule. “Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.” The act goes on to explain that a person who is allergic to dog dander must try to make reasonable accommodations.
Danyelle filed an ADA complaint with the Department of Justice. She said she went public not just for herself, but for everyone with a service dog.
“I would like something done so that he realizes what he did was wrong. I don’t want to see anyone ever being barred from anywhere. I don’t want to see anyone denied medical treatment just because of a service dog,” Danyelle told Berman.
You can read the full news article and see the video report on Fox CT.
Texas Restaurant Refuses Service to FM Patient with Service Dog
Rita Abrego told ABC's KSAT News that when she went to Herredero Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio, she was denied service because they don't allow dogs in the restaurant.
Rita suffers from a number of conditions including fibromyalgia, lupus, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression. She says her service dog Selene comforts her when her blood pressure is high or she is in pain.
Very upset by the incident, Rita called the police. “I was shaking, my face was all red. I was getting all swollen,” Rita said.
When questioned about the incident by KSAT anchor and reporter Myra Arthur, restaurant owner, Blasa Reyna, said “I thought it was just a pet. I was thinking ‘she’s not blind.’ The other (service) dogs are really tall, really big. They’re, like, taking the person to the table.”
Reyna went on to say that she really thought service dogs were just for blind people. She didn't realize service dogs can be small, like Selene who is a Maltipoo, or that they can be used for disabilities that are not obvious.
According to the ADA, “When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.”
Once the police came and Renya understood that Selene was indeed a service dog, she offered Rita a free meal, but Rita chose to leave the restaurant.
You can read the full news article and see the video report on ABC's KSAT News.
In the first incident, while it is understandable that a doctor who is allergic to dogs might have a problem treating a patient with a dog in the exam room, I don't think yelling at the patient is the appropriate response. A better solution might have been to explain his situation and ask the patient to return with a friend or family member that could help her rather than the dog – or simply to refer her to another allergist who could treat her with her service dog.
I think the second incident was a genuine case of the restaurant owner not fully understanding how service dogs can be used. Although it could be argued that knowing the law regarding service dogs is her responsibility as a business owner, at least when she was informed, she tried to make it right by offering a free meal.
It's unfortunate these two women had to go through these stressful situations, but I'm glad to see it being covered in the news. Obviously there are business owners who don't know the law regarding service dogs and disabilities and hopefully these stories will help educate them.
Do you have a service dog? Have you or anyone you know ever been denied service of any kind because of your service dog?
Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth's Fibromyalgia Editor. She is also co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and was Executive Editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine for four years.