Sugar Dog Stories – Denied Access

Chapter Two – Trouble in Paradise

The Board of Directors of Sugar Dogs International, Inc., a Florida not-for-profit corporation, had its initial meeting at Steinhatchee Landing in Steinhatchee, Florida.  We enjoyed two of the many different cottages for a lovely weekend.  Many of the cottages are dog friendly for people traveling with pets and the establishment offered us a very warm welcome as always.

We had brunch at Fiddler’s where the staff and our two Sugar Dogs, Peaches and Sugar Boy, joined us.  (Remember that in Florida it is a crime to leave your dog or child in a vehicle unattended, windows being down makes no difference.)  We had a marvelous time and vowed to return.

What follows is a portion of the Complaint submitted to the Florida Commission on Human Relations:

On Saturday evening, September 12, 2009, Mimi entered Roy’s Restaurant in Steinhatchee, FL and requested a table for three (3) people and two (2) diabetic alert service animals.  She offered documentation, proving that the two poodles were diabetic alert dogs as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to the white haired lady who seated us.

We were seated in a booth, which works best with the diabetic alert dogs, and provided menus; however, Southern hospitality quickly evaporated as an employee informed Mimi that “poodles could not be service dogs” and we were “not going to be served.”  In fact, she went so far as to state emphatically that “only blind people use service dogs.”  Both dogs were wearing identifying Service Dog vests.  Mimi offered photos of the dogs together with their licensing information and latest veterinarian’s documentation as proof of their status.  The employee refused to review the documentation, stating that she was just “doing as she was told by Linda Wicker.”

The two poodles in my party on Saturday evening are both life savers. Both dogs have been individually trained to perform diabetic alert dog services for insulin dependent diabetics.

Therefore, an insulin dependent diabetic was illegally denied food service during a regular dinner hour by the staff and management of Roy’s Restaurant, Inc.

The Complaint was filed on January 7, 2010.  (Must be filed within one year of the event – knowing that sooner is better than later.)

The Complaint was modified by Brooke Henderson and responded to by defense counsel for Roy’s Restaurant, Jennifer Ellison, who drafted Affidavits for four (4) employees who alleged that the dogs were wet, had fleas and smelled bad.  In reply, we offered Affidavits and documentation proving that the Poodles receive professional grooming every other week (and had received such care on Friday, September 11, 2010).  Additionally, documentation from the Poodles’ veterinarian was offered indicating that both were using a flea preventative regularly, both were recognized as diabetic alert dogs, and that Peaches had been in Focus magazine with her veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer Conner.

On June 21, 2010, we were notified that the Office of Employment Investigations submitted an Investigative Memorandum and based upon which, the Florida Commission on Human Relations “determined that no reasonable cause exists to believe that an unlawful public accommodation practice occurred.”

Lesson #1 learned:  Always carry a copy of the law with you.

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (the “ADA”):

Businesses MAY ask:

1.  Is this a Service Dog?

2.  What tasks does the Service Dog perform?

Businesses may NOT:

1.  Ask about the person’s disability.

2.  Require identification or certification for the dog.

3.  Charge additional fees because of the dog.

4.  Refuse entry, isolate, segregate, or treat the person less favorably than other patrons.

A Service Dog may NOT be required to leave a premises UNLESS:

1.  The animal is out of control and the animal’s owner does not take effective action to control it.

2.  The animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

Any business that sells or prepares food MUST allow service animals in the public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.

Refusal to provide access to people with disabilities with service animals is a federal civil rights violation, provided by the Americans with Disability Act of 1990, as amended.  Violators of the ADA can be required to pay money damages and penalties.

Additionally state statutes in all 50 states provide additional protections.  

FLORIDA STATUTES, Section 413.08 Rights of an individual with a disability; use of a service animal; discrimination in public employment or housing accommodations; penalties

(1) As used in this section and s. 413.081, the term:

(a) “Housing accommodation” means any real property or portion thereof which is used or occupied, or intended, arranged, or designed to be used or occupied, as the home, residence, or sleeping place of one or more persons, but does not include any single-family residence, the occupants of which rent, lease, or furnish for compensation not more than one room therein.

(b) “Individual with a disability” means a person who is deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, or otherwise physically disabled. As used in this paragraph, the term:

1. “Hard of hearing” means an individual who has suffered a permanent hearing impairment that is severe enough to necessitate the use of amplification devices to discriminate speech sounds in verbal communication.

2. “Physically disabled” means any person who has a physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

(c) “Public accommodation” means a common carrier, airplane, motor vehicle, railroad train, motor bus, streetcar, boat, or other public conveyance or mode of transportation; hotel; lodging place; place of public accommodation, amusement, or resort; and other places to which the general public is invited, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons.

(d) “Service animal” means an animal that is trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The tasks may include, but are not limited to, guiding a person who is visually impaired or blind, alerting a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, pulling a wheelchair, assisting with mobility or balance, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, retrieving objects, or performing other special tasks. A service animal is not a pet.

(2) An individual with a disability is entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges in all public accommodations. This section does not require any person, firm, business, or corporation, or any agent thereof, to modify or provide any vehicle, premises, facility, or service to a higher degree of accommodation than is required for a person not so disabled.

(3) An individual with a disability has the right to be accompanied by a service animal in all areas of a public accommodation that the public or customers are normally permitted to occupy.

(a) Documentation that the service animal is trained is not a precondition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. A public accommodation may ask if an animal is a service animal or what tasks the animal has been trained to perform in order to determine the difference between a service animal and a pet.

(b) A public accommodation may not impose a deposit or surcharge on an individual with a disability as a precondition to permitting a service animal to accompany the individual with a disability, even if a deposit is routinely required for pets.

(c) An individual with a disability is liable for damage caused by a service animal if it is the regular policy and practice of the public accommodation to charge nondisabled persons for damages caused by their pets.

(d) The care or supervision of a service animal is the responsibility of the individual owner. A public accommodation is not required to provide care or food or a special location for the service animal or assistance with removing animal excrement.

(e) A public accommodation may exclude or remove any animal from the premises, including a service animal, if the animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Allergies and fear of animals are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to an individual with a service animal. If a service animal is excluded or removed for being a direct threat to others, the public accommodation must provide the individual with a disability the option of continuing access to the public accommodation without having the service animal on the premises.

(4) Any person, firm, or corporation, or the agent of any person, firm, or corporation, who denies or interferes with admittance to, or enjoyment of, a public accommodation or otherwise interferes with the rights of an individual with a disability or the trainer of a service animal while engaged in the training of such an animal pursuant to subsection (8), commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(5) It is the policy of this state that an individual with a disability be employed in the service of the state or political subdivisions of the state, in the public schools, and in all other employment supported in whole or in part by public funds, and an employer may not refuse employment to such a person on the basis of the disability alone, unless it is shown that the particular disability prevents the satisfactory performance of the work involved.

(6) An individual with a disability is entitled to rent, lease, or purchase, as other members of the general public, any housing accommodations offered for rent, lease, or other compensation in this state, subject to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons.

(a) This section does not require any person renting, leasing, or otherwise providing real property for compensation to modify her or his property in any way or provide a higher degree of care for an individual with a disability than for a person who is not disabled.

(b) An individual with a disability who has a service animal or who obtains a service animal is entitled to full and equal access to all housing accommodations provided for in this section, and such a person may not be required to pay extra compensation for the service animal. However, such a person is liable for any damage done to the premises or to another person on the premises by such an animal. A housing accommodation may request proof of compliance with vaccination requirements.

(7) An employer covered under subsection (5) who discriminates against an individual with a disability in employment, unless it is shown that the particular disability prevents the satisfactory performance of the work involved, or any person, firm, or corporation, or the agent of any person, firm, or corporation, providing housing accommodations as provided in subsection (6) who discriminates against an individual with a disability, commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(8) Any trainer of a service animal, while engaged in the training of such an animal, has the same rights and privileges with respect to access to public facilities and the same liability for damage as is provided for those persons described in subsection (3) accompanied by service animals.

History.–s. 1, ch. 25268, 1949; s. 1, ch. 61-217; s. 361, ch. 71-136; s. 1, ch. 71-276; s. 1, ch. 73-110; s. 1, ch. 74-286; s. 1, ch. 77-174; s. 19, ch. 77-259; s. 178, ch. 79-400; s. 1, ch. 82-111; s. 73, ch. 83-218; s. 60, ch. 85-81; s. 1, ch. 87-312; s. 1, ch. 89-317; s. 1, ch. 90-8; s. 1, ch. 91-94; s. 1, ch. 93-18; s. 57, ch. 97-103; s. 1, ch. 98-19; s. 3, ch. 2002-176; s. 1, ch. 2005-63

Lesson #2 learned:  Stand Ready, Willing and Able to Call the ADA HOTLINE at 800-514-0301.  It is an agency of the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.  Remember Local Police or Sheriff’s Department are NEVER well trained in the ADA and cannot serve as the ADA enforcers.  Only YOU can enforce YOUR rights to use a service animal.  Roy’s Restaurant would not have “won” the day IF Mimi had called independent witnesses, gotten names and addresses of the people seated near us, etc.

Well, I hope you have learned something about service animals, and especially diabetic alert dogs. We are pretty special, saving our people’s lives all the time. So the next time you see a dog in a restaurant or in a public place where dogs usually are not allowed to go, you’ll know they are a service dog. Tell ‘em Peaches says “Hello! And that diabetic alert dogs are allowed” based on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, and Florida Statute § 413.08.

© Sugar Dogs International, Inc., a Florida not-for-profit corporation – IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt status approved

We prefer to train only Poodles as diabetic alert dogs to assist Type I and Type II diabetics who are willing to commit to testing their glucose levels regularly throughout the day.  Love Poodles for “If the Poodle loves you, it will alert.”

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As an independent non-profit, we can’t raise capital like a regular business does.  Our successful launch of Sugar Dogs International, Inc. was only possible with the financial backing of supporters like you.  

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 Disclosure:  We recommend that you seek medical care from a board certified endocrinologist, tax advice from a certified public accountant or a board certified tax lawyer, and legal advice from a board certified attorney as nothing contained on this website is offered as medical advice, tax advice or legal advice.

Sugar Dogs International, Inc. is an all volunteer Not for Profit organization. Our federal tax ID number is 27-0988608. A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Division of Consumer Services by calling 1-800-435-7352 within the State of Florida. Registration does not imply endorsement, approval or recommendation by the State. CH44762