Sunday, May 25, 2014

YES! Service Dogs can Dine at the Inn (and anywhere else people eat food)

This is lovingly dedicated to all Veterans active duty, reserved and retired, and to the families who lost a loved one in the service of our country. “Thank you” for your service and sacrifice.

Sadly while researching for this blog I found several cases of discrimination against U.S. Veterans who tried to enter restaurants with their Service Dog.  I find this particularly horrid and I think it’s a fitting starting point for any Service Dog discussion this Memorial Day weekend.

Over the years I watched my Dad and Uncles discuss “battle fatigue.” I saw Vietnam Veterans at my church talk about “flash-backs”. For these generations invisible wounds often went misunderstood, untreated, and even discounted as “all in your head.” In 1980 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognized a group of survivor symptoms as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (see NH Fact Sheet). We now know that physical and mental consequences are brought about by a trauma outside the individual and these symptoms  are not a sign of character weakness; Instead,  they are a method the brain uses to process experiences. (For a full discussion of PTSD see the educational resources below).

“So what  you are really saying mom, is,  that   wounded Veterans are  now fully able to participate in life but, they are not allowed to because someone takes it upon themselves to say “NO DOGS?”

     “Hello Goodee the Service Dog I can always count on you to bring the blog back to my original point. Yes, many social establishments try to exclude Service Dogs.”

“     “But Mom everyone CAN have a Service Dog with them, that’s the LAW”

“YES Goodee, that’s the Law but—“

“Oh I get it now mom ACCESS depends upon people KNOWING and APPLYING the LAW. Well, that’s different there’s a whole learning curve thing that goes on.”
“Goodee, what exactly is a “learning curve?”
“Well mom I’m not sure but that’s what Manger types say when they should have known the Service Dog Access law and told their employees about it but didn’t, or they think employees know about Service Dogs but find out later they didn’t.”
“Right Goodee. The new guy or Learning Curve, hmm...  Let’s see it would probably only take us five minutes to educate people on the law that would help”
Let’s start with…


     Nearly 1 in 5 American’s has a disability (US Census Bureau, 2010).  Estimates suggests there are over 300, 00 Service Dogs in the U.S. specifically trained to mitigate a disability for their owner.              Information from Guide Dog schools shows that less than 3% of the Service Dog population in the U.S. is used as a guide dog for someone who is blind (For Service Dog stats see the Service Dog Central link below).  Taking all this into account, it is likely that at some point an eating establishment will be asked to serve a customer who has a Service Dog, and that person will be disabled but not blind.

     “Wow, all that information sounds like a logic puzzle.”

     “Yes Goodee the Service Dog, it is logical that Service Dogs are out there in the world helping people and it may not always be obvious that the person is disabled and/or that the dog is a Service Dog. , so the question becomes what to do when your restaurant encounters a Dog?”

     “I know: Wouldn’t it be best to treat a person with a Service Dog just like you do any other person coming into your restaurant?  Everyone has to eat and it’s a matter of Economics really whether your establishment can afford the penalties of violating Federal Laws which protect the access rights of Service Dog handlers.”

     “YES, that’s it Goodee! That sounded like you have an Economics and Marketing Degree but that is the point. Interference with a Service Dog is not only poor customer service it is a violation of Federal Law (fines can range from $300 to $50,000 for a first offense, and in some cases can include jail time).

Points to remember about Service Dogs in eating establishments
  • ·       Federal Law requires that a Service Dog and their handler be allowed in all areas of public access—there is no public health law or local rule to “trump” this.

  • ·       While many Service Dogs have vests or ID Cards there are no documentation requirements for Service Dogs.

  • ·       Business establishments may only ask:

1. Is this a Service Dog required because of a disability?


  2. What work or tasks has the dog been trained to perform?

--- Please note that you should NOT say “You are not blind, are you?”, or ask “What’s WRONG with you?”  Or even “Why do you have a Service Dog?”  No one is allowed to ask for medically sensitive information.
It is also poor form to say “Is that all?”(Being able to stand or sit without assistance may be “nothing” to you but for someone who has been unable to do it there is a world of difference when they have a trained dog).

  • ·       If a Service Dog disrupts business you may ask that the dog leave but you must allow the patron to try and correct the disruption and the patron has the right to stay in your place of business without their dog.

  • ·       The best customer service practice is to ask the Service Dog handler where they would like to be seated. Each Service Dog Team works differently and only the handler knows what is best for their circumstances. --- Talk to the Human not the Dog. Talking to the dog distracts them from their job of taking care of the handler
  • ·       Remember the Service Dog is a Medical Device to be treated like Durable Medical Equipment.  You would not  ask a customer to be without their eye glasses or cane, so DON’T EXCLUDE “THE DOG”. You would not stare at a customer’s wheelchair or ask them why they need to wear a mask… SO DON’T ASK about “THE DOG” or “STARE” at the person or dog. You would not casually ask a customer if they take Viagra so be careful how you ask a person about their Service Dog and how it works for them.   You would not  allow your employees to empty out of the kitchen and “check out this customer’s cool blood sugar meter” so DON’T allow employees to create a “side show” about the Service Dog.

  • ·       Give the Service Dog and handler SPACE. Do you suddenly stop your family time or confidential business conversation to reply to twenty random questions from a total stranger?---  We don’t either so don’t expect us to do so!

  • ·       DO NOT FEED the Service Dog unless you have ASKED and RECEIVED permission from the handler to do so.

For Every Action there is a Reaction

Team Goodee has been together since 2006. At first everywhere we went (especially where there was food) there was an “issue.” We are happy to report that things are better but, shocked to find there are some people who still don’t know Service Dog Access Laws.

We try our best to educate, forgive, and forget but, just like other consumers first impressions last a long time. Sometimes Team Goodee “bounces back” and allows food establishments to “get it right.” but there are times when things go so wrong we don’t even think of going back.

There is an entertainment venue that I use to patronize several times a year.—Team Goodee even went there for several years… Until--- One day everyone from the Parking Lot Attendant to the Food Service Manager wanted to refuse us service. I tried several different ways of educating everyone eventually I called the local police who thankfully took over the task of education and allowed us to TRY to enjoy ourselves.—this was an event with expensive tickets. I had family and friends with me. I didn’t NEED to have to stop what I was doing and defend myself. Even after a nice apology from the General Manager and his private number for future use, Team Goodee has not been back in over three years.

We recently corresponded with the mother of a young Service Dog friend about a bad experience-- The Manager of a local pizza establishment was not only rude but left the 11-year old year old boy in fear of his life.—Telling someone who has a life-threatening reaction to tree nuts that you will just start cooking with Peanut Oil to keep the dog away is as funny as playing Russian Roulette with loaded guns.    What seems like “no big deal”, or “just a learning curve” to you may very well be an assault which causes real physical and emotional harm. 

This blog has not used any business names. We don’t wish to cause a problem for anyone. Our mission is to educate and make life better for Service Dog Teams everywhere.

     “Let’s close on that note mom and remind people that we have  educational links below.”

     “Good idea Goodee.

We welcome feedback by email.
When you see us out and about we often must say,
“Not Now We Are Working!”
GoodeeWorks Productions

Educational Links and Further Reading

NIH Fact Sheets - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (NIH Fact Sheets - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD))

Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him  By Fmr. Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan (with Bret Witter)

(One of the best books ever written about Understanding PTSD and the life-changing effects of a Service Dog.  Available in many formats from fine book sellers everywhere. For more information see )

Some of our friends who provide Service Dogs to U.S. Veterans include:
Shepherds for Lost Sheep Inc.
K9S for Warriors
Service Dog information and services for business owners:
Service Dog 411(Sue Kindred)

Statistics about the Service Dog Population:
See Service Dog Central 

U.S. Department of Justice:   Service Dog Access FAQ’s
U.S. Department of Justice ADA Requirements: What is a Service Animal

For assistance with Service Dog Access contact the U.S. Dept. of Justice ADA Info line at:
1-800-514-0301 (voice)
1-800-514-0383 (TTY)
For information on filing Service Dog Access Complaints see Service Dog Central

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Stupidity: The largest Service Dog Access Problem

   “Education is the key to Service Dog access. People in all walks of life need to know what Service Dogs are, what they do, and why the Service Dog must not be removed from the handler.”
There we have it, a perfect blog intro.
     “No mom it’s not perfect.—in fact, it’s watered down and not making the correct point.”
     “Hello Goodee the Service Dog you see your mom the human is working on the blog.”
     “I see your trying mom but not doing a very good job.”
     “Okay, Goodee the Service Dog, just what would you say is a good blog intro?”
          “UHHHM here it goes mom…”
     Stupidity is the largest barrier to Service Dog access. Thousands of people are totally dependent upon Service Dogs to help them with the most basic skills of life. The Americans With Disabilities Act, guarantees people with service dogs access to public places. Many employers make sure their employees know the law by providing Service Dog sensitivity training to their employees, then there are some individuals who make no effort to know or understand the law and that creates the largest problem for service dogs and their handlers—Not knowing the law, being dense, refusal to understand, AKA: STUPIDITY.
       “Goodee the Service Dog you have written a near perfect intro. Do you mind if I join in?”
        “Oh no mom anytime.”
     As Goodee points out Service Dogs and their handlers are to be given access to any area that is normally accessed by the public. In our nearly seven years together Team Goodee has experienced challenges to access in:  hotels, gas stations, restaurants and office buildings. We do our share of education. Usually misunderstandings are cleared up once people understand that Goodee the Aussie is also Goodee the Service Dog (a medical device under the ADA). Sometimes we have called local police, or members of management for further clarification and things get ironed out.—however, there are times we will never forget that require much more effort on our parts.
     “Come on mom tell it like it is: There are times that we have to waste way too much time and energy explaining things because people are being STUPID!”
     “Oh yes Goodee the Service Dog, you are always good at being direct. Sometimes people are just plain STUPID. If you have never been dependent upon a Service Dog you may not realize just what one instance of Stupidity can do physically and mentally to the Service Dog Team.
     “Let’s insert our best example here.”
     “Yes that’s a good idea Goodee.”

     My mom was recently hospitalized due to  heart AFIB and a related fall. . At age 88 she often tries to do more than her body will allow. She was release to our home with specific orders from Medicare that she was to receive regular visits from a nurse. I welcomed someone looking after my mom’s well-being.
Goodee the Service Dog had kept my life “normal” she assisted me in walking across surfaces so I could do the shopping, banking, cooking, and laundry. When migraine triggers suddenly presented themselves Goodee would help me get meds, or a better position for my head. Life for Team Goodee was “normal” but going at a strained  pace due to the things needed for my mom. The nurse called and demanded that he come during a specific time frame. However, I was ready to get help for my mom’s medical needs. I truthfully did not think about my Service Dog because she is just a part of me.—like a leg or an arm, she is a body part.  Little did I know I was about to come upon the largest access issue I have had in the history of Team Goodee. – Here it comes the largest barrier for anyone with a Service Dog.—what’s that word again Goodee.—STUPIDITY!
“Thanks Goodee, yes Stupidity, meaning a lack of intellect.
     When the nurse came to the door I was working on a three-day stretch of two hours of sleep per night. Goodee the Service Dog was vested and leashed at my side. Goodee barked at the first sign of a stranger at the door but soon stopped when requested.
     “I’m afraid of dogs.” the nurse said backing up a bit.
     “Oh I’m sorry she is my Service Dog,” I said, through a closed door, showing the “SERVICE DOG” –patch on Goodee’s vest, right next to the one that says, “ACCESS REQUIRED.”
     The nurse bristled saying “I don’t like dogs anywhere around me, can you put the dog away?”
     I was genuinely sympathetic to the situation and kept the door closed.
    “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding I can’t be without the dog but could you send someone who will work with dogs?”
     “I will call my supervisor,” the nurse said, leaving the porch.
    “Oh well I will clear this up with the supervisor and they will send someone else,” I thought to myself.
 Simple right?
     “WRONG MOM!”
     "Oh hello Goodee the Service Dog, glad you are still around. Do you remember what happened after this?

         " Well mom you had a big “melt down"  because you were trying to explain things but no one was listening.”
     That’s it in a neat nut shell yes Goodee. It wasn’t pretty.
     My cell phone rang and the supervisor said “I don’t understand what’s the big deal, what could it possibly hurt.  just put the dog away for an hour while the nurse is there.”
I was then informed by the RN Nurse Supervisor that she would not send another nurse that I was being “unreasonable” and she would not have her nurses go where they didn’t feel safe.
I tried several times in the conversation to point out that I was just requesting a nurse that would work with dogs being present in the home. I went on to disclose specific medical details as to why I needed the dog (something not required by law but I felt would be nice to provide). I tried to explain the dynamics, mom and I share a house, mom needs me, I need the dog, and the dog is a SERVICE DOG a MEDICAL DEVICE, a TOOL NOT A TOY.”
     “Yes that’s how it happened mom and in real life you were shouting in the all caps parts. You shouted so loud that our friends could hear you all the way down the driveway.”
     “Yes Goodee I was pretty upset.”
     For years I struggled to stand, walk and do things. Now with the right medical team in place and Service Dog Goodee I am able to do things and actually be there for my mom when she needs me. With Service Dog Goodee I have the freedom to be normal but now I encounter the barrier of unnecessary STUPIDITY. These people are as my niece so correctly stated “Uneducated ding-dongs.”
The supervisor finally agreed to send a nurse who got along fine with Goodee the Service Dog.—For the home health agency the problem was resolved but I  was left with a large amount of anxiety due to the encounter and Goodee the Service Dog also experienced anxiety of her own due to my extra needs during the days following the event.

This event illustrates the most unnecessary barrier to service dog access. –The initial barrier that is perfectly preventable. It takes such a small amount of time to LEARN THE LAW. Every walk of life will be touched by the thousands of Service Dogs in use.
     When an administrator called me about this event she was nice but the damage was done.
     “It’s such a learning curve for us,” she told me. While I am glad they were open to education, it saddens me to find out first-hand how under-educated the medical profession is about ADA Service Dog Laws.

We would like to thank our friends and family who keep us going and our friends in the Service Dog Community who know the shoes we walk in and the struggle we face.

     Team Goodee appreciates communication by email and Facebook. When you see us out and about we will likely say: “Not Now We Are Working.”

---DD & Goodee 

We offer the educational links below for further reading and welcome the sharing of our blog.

Service Dog Resources

FAQ Service Dog Access

DOJ: Service Animal Briefs

Federal Policies on Service Dog Access
Service Dog Education for Law Enforcement & Business Owners
Service Dog 411
Shepherds for Lost Sheep, Inc.
A non-profit organization dedicated to helping Veterans through the use of Service K-9’s

 Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him 
By Luis Carlos Montalvan & Brent Whitter
A best-seller must read about a warrior and the life-changing effects of a Service Dog
Available in many formats

Coming Soon
Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and His Service Dog by Luis Carlos Montalván, Bret Witter and Dan Dion (May 27, 2014)