Vet denied space in homeless shelter because of his Service Dog - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 12:13 AM Thread Starter
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Vet denied space in homeless shelter because of his Service Dog

From combat to a parking lot | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME

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He and his service dog, Mabel, a German shepherd/Lab mix, sleep in the back seat of the crew cab. His belongings are in plastic tubs in the truck bed.

Rollins said Mabel is what keeps him sane.

"When I got her, I started taking her places, and everybody saw a difference in me," he said. "She's really rescued me from PTSD, and I'm starting to get my life back."

And while he prefers the company of Mabel, the dog prevents him from staying at a shelter for homeless veterans at VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus.

He stayed at the homeless veterans' shelter several times, but he was told Mabel had to leave because of barking and the uneasiness her presence caused with some other residents. He slept on the floor of a friend's shed for a while and then moved into his truck.
The article says that Mabel was certified as a Service Dog in January 2010, but it does not further specify how she was certified or what she does for him. It also says that the only time she has barked was when someone came up behind them and touched her.

I have no opinion on whether or not Mabel is actually a Service Dog because there isn't enough information. But, regardless, I think it's sad that there are no shelters where he can stay because he has a dog (Service Dog or not).

Malinois Ronja - fastest K-9 in VT
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 12:23 AM
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If the dogs is certified as a service dog, then that is what he is. No need to question that-he is certified. I think that's horrible that this veteran is homeless. My community is opening up a homeless shelter specifically for veterans soon-and I am wondering….what the heck are veterans doing homeless anyhow? That is sad.

*US Army Mom*


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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 12:37 AM
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If the dogs is certified as a service dog, then that is what he is. No need to question that-he is certified.
Places offering shelter have a right to ask additional questions then those limits placed on a worker in a store or employee in a restaurant.

Also the thought was brought up here as there is no recognized Fed/National or State Certifications.

He was not denied access to the shelter. He was told after several times that the dog was not going to be allowed because it barked at other clients. A handler of any service dog that barks in any venue can be told to remove the dog.

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
Pyro vom Wildhaus aka Kaleb ~S.T.A.R.~
Family Companion, Non-Profit Mascot, In-Home Service Dog


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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 12:43 AM
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Originally Posted by ILGHAUS View Post
Places offering shelter have a right to ask additional questions then those limits placed on a worker in a store or employee in a restaurant.

Also the thought was brought up here as there is no recognized Fed/National or State Certifications.
Well, it says the dog is certified, and there are no other details. So I am just going to take it at face value-that the dog is certified. Besides PTSD is a real condition-being in a war is not easy on the mind! And since that is a real condition then a dog that aids in that should be able to be certified at any level and recognized. I have seen too many soldiers come back all messed up in the head from the war. And the most important part of this story anyhow is that this vetern is homeless because of his dog who is instrumental in his recovery and not allowed in the shelter with him. For a veteran to be homeless is truly heartbreaking.

*US Army Mom*


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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 12:58 AM
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No one is saying PTSD is not real or of great concern. The story is dealing with someone who got a dog from a shelter and trained it himself. The dog barks at others and the handler is not taking the help offered him.

He was offered the help of a trainer to correct the barking ... He was offerend the ability to stay in a hotel room but it is too noisy and he prefers sleeping in his truck ... his dog runs loose inside of the shelter. His dog is making other Vets staying at the shelter uneasy.

This is a shelter for disabled Vets. Other Vets have stayed there with their SDs. Those in charge are trying to come up with other ways to help this particular person but he has to be willing to work with them.

And no one here is putting his behavior down as it is probably in large part because of his condition. But if he doesn't want to go with their other suggestions there is no way they can force him but they can continue to not allow the dog inside until the dog behaves as a SD should.

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
Pyro vom Wildhaus aka Kaleb ~S.T.A.R.~
Family Companion, Non-Profit Mascot, In-Home Service Dog


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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 02:04 AM Thread Starter
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From the viewpoint of the general public, I would look at this article and say, "How horrible - he's denied access to the shelter because he has a Service Dog." But when you read the article more closely, you will find that that is not the case at all.

This homeless shelter is not telling him he cannot be in the shelter because he has a dog. They're saying he can't be in the shelter with his dog as long as the dog is behaving in a way that is inconsistent with how a Service Dog should behave in a public place.

It is absolutely legal for any public place or business to ask someone with a legitimate Service Dog to leave if the dog poses a danger or behaves in a way that is inappropriate. Some of the things the law considered to be "inappropriate" are running lose outside of the control of the handler, barking or lunging at people, or peeing/pooping inside the store or building. The homeless shelter is well within their rights to exclude a real Service Dog if the dog is running loose and barking at people because those behaviors are inconsistent with the training of a real Service Dog.

The other thing is that the ADA applies primarily to places accessible to the general public. Because this is a homeless shelter specifically for disabled veterans, it would not be accessible to the general public, and if he needs specific accommodation for his Service Dog, they are well within their legal rights to require him to complete paperwork to be permitted to bring his dog and keep his dog at the shelter. (Along the same lines, colleges can require students using Service Dogs to fill in paperwork and the like because they, too, are not normally accessible to the general public.)

Lastly, it should be noted that there is no such thing as state or national certification for Service Dogs. Service Dogs are only then certified if they graduated from a specific organization that trains them - and those certifications are internal and specific to that organization.

It's perfectly possible that he took and passed a Public Access Test with his dog, which is great but wouldn't be a Service Dog certification. I've found that most of the time when people say their owner/handler trained dog is "certified", it means that they sent some online company money for a certificate and dog vest. Not saying that is the case here, but that is the case in the majority of cases where an owner/handler dog is described as "certified".

And none of this has to do with his disability. I think everyone here is aware that PTSD are real and how Service Dogs can help people with PTSD. TJ and I certainly do.

Malinois Ronja - fastest K-9 in VT
=^^= Finn, Ratchet & Ollie

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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 02:16 AM
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In my previous comment I was only going by the information given by the OP, I do think this veterans behavior is caused by his condition, and I see that he is homeless because his soon to be ex-wife is getting most of his money right now.

I am dumbfounded with the information I found concerning service dogs. I went online to determine what the requirements were to have your dog certified. I found out that by checking a box stating (on my word only) that my dog was trained as a service dog, and well behaved that for $250, I could have one of my dogs certified and get the certification, vest, and be good to go. I had no idea that it was so simple-I though the dog had to be tested by a professional. Now I understand why his dog may very likely need additional training.

*US Army Mom*


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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 02:31 AM Thread Starter
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If you check some of the other threads about Service Dogs, you will find that there is a big hole in regards to certification.

According to the ADA, a Service Dog is a Service Dog if two requirements are met - the handler is considered to be legally disabled and the dog is trained to do specific tasks that mitigate the disability of the handler. Those are the requirements for a dog to be a Service Dog.

Because there is no such thing as a national or state certification, there are a lot of scam businesses that offer "certification" for a price. You basically click a box saying that your dog is a Service Dog and send them your money. What you get for that money are a piece of paper saying your dog is a "certified" Service Dog, a laminated ID collar tag, and a vest. You can print those certificates and collar tags on your computer at home and they would be every bit as valid as the ones you BUY through those websites. (And you can purchase vests and Service Dog tags for a fraction of the cost those websites charge.)

The reason the law is written the way it is written is to allow knowledgeable people to select and train their own dogs. Bear in mind that just because a dog was trained by the owner/handler doesn't mean the dog is NOT well trained nor that the dog is NOT a real Service Dog. If the dog has excellent manners and obedience in public and does specific tasks for the disabled handler, the dog IS a Service Dog - even without any kind of printed ID tag or certificate.

The only "true" Service Dog certification that exists is through organizations that train dogs in their programs - for example, a dog trained by Canine Companions for Independence would be certified through them, by completing the training program satisfactorily.

A lot of the time, questions arise about supposed Service Dogs if they behave in a manner that suggests bad (or no) training or being unfit to work as Service Dogs. The law is actually pretty good at explaining why a dog and handler may be asked to leave, what behaviors are "no-no's" for a good Service Dog.

And no, even if you were to send in $250 and get a "certificate" for your dog, your dog would NOT meet the legal requirements to be a Service Dog. You'd still need to be legally disabled AND the dog would need to do specific tasks for you. Even if you have a piece of paper and a vest saying he's a Service Dog.

Malinois Ronja - fastest K-9 in VT
=^^= Finn, Ratchet & Ollie

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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 07:57 AM
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Legally yes, but my point is that you could pull it off on most people-how would they ever know the difference?

*US Army Mom*


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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 08:16 AM
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Legally yes, but my point is that you could pull it off on most people-how would they ever know the difference?
That is one reason why people like Chris, Lin, Renee, and I and several others have posted here, on our own blogs and websites, and those of others for years. We are trying to educate people on the laws so all sides know their rights and their responsibilities. Some of us also give talks and meet with various groups to point out some of the problems and try to work on solutions.

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
Pyro vom Wildhaus aka Kaleb ~S.T.A.R.~
Family Companion, Non-Profit Mascot, In-Home Service Dog


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