In Oxford, Massachusetts the owner of a local diner, known as Big I’s Restaurant, refused to allow James Glaser into the establishment simply because the owner did not believe that Glaser’s service dog, Jack, was legitimate. Glaser, a war veteran with 21 years of service, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2011 and brought his service dog to the restaurant to eat but was banned because the owner, Russell Ireland, did not think that the dog was legitimately a service dog.
Despite Glaser’s ability to provide paperwork proving the legal legitimacy of Jack’s status as service dog, Ireland was unwilling to budge from his stance on the topic.
“This is a post-traumatic stress dog. It’s to give him emotional support. How much emotional support do you need when you are eating breakfast?” He was quoted as saying.
It is true that a dog meant to provide only emotional support does not classify as a service dog in any legal way and would therefore not be exempt from pet policies in any establishment. A service dog must be trained extensively to perform tasks that are atypical to a dog’s nature. It can take as long as six months for the skills sets for a single task to be learned by a dog.
Glaser had been able to prove that he had completed this training with his own service dog and still the war veteran was banned from the restaurant in question. Ireland expressed incredulity regarding the necessity of the dog and his assertion that emotional support is not a function of a service dog is not inaccurate. According to an article found on the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners website, “While a dog’s companionship may offer emotional support, comfort or a sense of security, this in and of itself does NOT qualify as a “trained task” or “work” under the ADA, thus it does not give a disabled person the legal right to take that dog out in public as a legitimate service dog.”
There are a lot of tasks that service dogs would learn to aid a person diagnosed with PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD include anxiety attacks, paralysis from fear, dissociation, flashbacks, night terrors and nightmares, and hyper-vigilance, which makes it easier for sensory overloading to occur. Service dogs can be relied on to provide assistance in instances where these symptoms become disruptive to daily functioning.
Service dogs could retrieve medication and beverages when they are needed. In emergencies, they can be sent for a phone to help call for help and can even be trained to bark into a speakerphone should their caretaker be unresponsive. They can answer doors for emergency personnel if their owner is unable to as well.
During times of dissociation, panic or fear paralysis, service dogs can be trained to respond to the signals of their caretakers and provide tactile stimulation meant to interrupt the symptoms and bring the person experiencing them back into the moment. For Glaser, this is a task he utilizes with his service dog, “When I start getting upset he smells the difference in me and he will claw at my chest and he will put his arm around my neck.”
So despite the fact that Ireland’s assertion that emotional support does not equate a service dog is correct, his dismissal of Jack as a service dog was legally disproved.
Glaser says that he intends to file a report of discrimination with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It appears he would have a case as well since the ADA states, “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” Once Glaser was able to prove the legal status of his service dog, being banned from Ireland’s restaurant became discrimination against this war veteran.
Written by: Vanessa Blanchard