(173) ADA Trumps a Sneeze: Service Dogs and Allergies

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Miss Molly, the Sneeze Tease 

Occasionally, asthma tickled the fringe of my life but nothing seriously until recently. In full asthma distress, I sought medical intervention with a breathing treatment and an arsenal of inhalers. Full distress just popped up one day and remains nagging. We identified the source when I walked into the bedroom one evening and collapsed in a coughing fit. Molly peeked out from a hidden corner in the room to assist. At that moment, we knew Molly instigated the attack. My doctor confirmed pet dander is the most frequent cause of adult onset of asthma. I call it OLA, Old Lady Asthma.

A Husband’s Call to Action 

Molly works as William’s service dog to help before and during panic attacks. She assists him with brace and balance. We love her and consider her a member of the family. Nonetheless, his response promised swift relocation to another family if my distress continued.

“Stop! Let’s try everything else first. After all, ADA prevails over my allergy to dander.” I assured him many options exist to Molly just groomed reduce exposure.

So, what do we do?

  1. Get the asthma under control with Prednisone
  2. Banish the dog at night to a faraway location
  3. Schedule maintenance of the house air filtration system
  4. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum
  5. Take the dog to a groomer. Ooh la la, she looks beautiful with her polka dot bows in freshly fluffed fur
  6. Stock inhalers in every room
  7. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum

If this does not work . . .

  1. Banish wife to a faraway location

Taking it Seriously

Mollys polka dot bowsAsthma and allergies to animals are no laughing matter. ADA guidelines state clearly, however, that the rights of people experiencing allergies to a service animal in public places do not prevail over or limit the rights of a disabled person to keep that animal in public. Businesses are encouraged to relocate the individual with allergies to another location whenever possible. I have seen many service dog owners, including my husband, move when someone nearby shows allergy distress. For me, however, that means at least a 20-foot perimeter.

An Uncertain Future 

Asthma may break my lungs, but giving Molly away would break my heart. Here’s hoping for a creative solution to this game of Bridge. In my home, ADA trumps a sneeze. At the very least I can say, “Miss Molly takes my breath away!”

Post your Comments 

What have you done to deal with allergies to pets in your household? Please reply below. 

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.

(128) Veterans and Service Animals in the News

Miss Molly profile

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Miss Molly fumed and fretted with the latest news reports. Normally, she does not care about the news but today she could not resist with headlines of stolen service dogs and a Veteran with his service dog being denied access to fly on American Airlines. Today, the Molly Blog shares the story about public access being denied to a Marine Veteran and his service animal, who “saved my life.”

Top Service Dog Gets the Boot 

Marine Corps Veteran Jason Haag intended to return home with his wife and service dog, Axel, on an American Airline flight this week. When questioned by the airline, Haag produced an ID card for his service dog, which is not required by law, and answered questions about the tasks the dog performs to assist him. His dog also wore a harness and service vest. Still, the airline representative told him he could not board with his dog. The representative asked numerous questions in violation of federal law (ADA) and accused Captain Haag of having a fraudulent ID in front of nearly 200 people, including five airline managers and supervisors.

The curious part of the story is that Mr. Haag made arrangements with American Airlines in advance of his flight, registering the dog with the airline’s disability office. He had flown with his service animal on the same airline eight days earlier.

The ironic part of the story is that American Airlines booted Haag and Axel on their way home from attending the American Humane Association’s Fifth Annual Hero Dog Awards 2015 where Axel won the award in the Service Dog Category.

After legal help from the attorney for the American Humane Society, American Airlines allowed Haag, his wife, and service animal to fly home the followingMolly's sniffer face day. The airline apologized after an earlier statement, claiming that Mr. Haag was not denied the flight but chose not to take the flight.

Molly’s response to the airline’s initial position: It doesn’t pass the sniff test.

CONGRATULATIONS, AXEL, ON YOUR SERVICE DOG OF THE YEAR AWARD!

Good News Coming

In Tuesday’s blog, Molly will share the story of a service dog reunited with his Afghanistan Veteran after eight months of separation.

Post your Comments: 

Have you ever tried to fly with your service dog? How would you describe that experience and what advice would you offer a Veteran when flying with his/her service animal? Please reply below. 

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

Source cited:

  • Shapiro, Emily. “Veteran accuses American Airlines stopping service dog boarding.” ABC News on September 22, 2015, as retrieved on September 22, 2015, at http://abcnews.go.com/US/veteran-accuses-american-airlines-stopping-service-dog-boarding/story?id=33943749

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.

(127) So a Pig, a Fish, and an Iguana Go Into a Restaurant . . .

Miss Molly profile

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


While ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) only acknowledges dogs and miniature horses as candidates for valid service animals, there is plenty of room for other animals to help a disabled individual. (For a refresher on what qualifications must be met to take a service animal into a public place, see Blog #6.)

A Service Animal is Not a Pet who is an Animal, who is also a Pet . . . Say What? 

Service animals work around the clock. They do not get time off and must be ready to assist their Veteran any time of day or night. As disabled Veterans will tell you, their service animals are also their best friends.

Even though a service animal is not a pet when in public, the animal does double duty as a best friend and companion during private time with its owner. Animals—not just dogs and miniature horses, offer emotional support and companionship. While these pets are not trained as service animals nor do they qualify for access to public places as service animals, they are nonetheless important to their owners.

A Menagerie of Possibilities

So, what animals make great pets? Petacular suggested it all depends on how much time you want to spend with them. Some animals are independent and wish to be left alone, such as a turtle, which scavenges for its own food outdoors and is happiest when left alone. Others insist on sitting in your lap whenever you sit, such as a cat. Others are fun to watch and only need their aquarium cleaned regularly with routine feeding. 

Petacular’s top five most popular small pets are:

  1. Guinea pig with a lifespan of five to ten years
  2. Gecko with a lifespan up to 20 years
  3. Rabbit with the lifespan between five and ten years
  4. Parrot with a lifespan up to 80 years (need a life estate for this pet)
  5. Betta fish with a life span up to three years

The NCHPAD blog listed five pets well suited for training to help with disabilities. These include Capuchin monkeys; ferrets; pot-bellied pigs; and snakes, specifically the boa constrictor. Reportedly, the boa constrictor squeezes the neck of his owner when a seizure is on-coming, reminding the owner to take his medication. The website included a fun-to-watch U-Tube video on how Panda, a miniature horse, is trained, to help with disabilities, which you can view on the NCHPAD blog. 

Animalplanet.com adds to the list of pets with nine others:

  1. Capybara, which is not sociable and bites kids
  2. Stick insect, which is easy to care for (and could make a great snack)
  3. Donkey, but they are big—200 to 350 pounds so not the best in a New York apartment
  4. Hedgehog, which is said to be gentle and easy to care for
  5. Pigmy goat—needs a shelter of at least 8’ by 10’ and lots of weeds, which makes it a good pet if you have a big yard but not so good if you have wall-to-wall carpet
  6. Sugar gliders, a member of the possum family, coming from Australia; an easy-care pet that loves people but has sharp teeth
  7. Kangaroo, but only if you own a park
  8. Skunk; you can remove their scent glands, neuter or spay them, teach them to use a litter box, feed them like cats and you have a perfect, sociable skunk—but it is still a skunk
  9. Cockroach . . . I cannot even go there!

Never Consider these Animals as Pets 

Emotional support or not, Animal Planet recommends you never consider these animals as pets:

1.                   Bald Eagle 2.                   Gator
3.                   Octopus 4.                   Bear
5.                   Marsupial such as a Koala 6.                   Tapir
7.                   Lemur, but I really want one 8.                   Beavers
9.                   Aardvark 10.               Bullfinch

 Hey, Animal Planet, what about elephants, rhinos, turkey vultures, and mosquitos?

Service Animals Go Public

Just because your pet is not a legal service animal does not mean it cannot help you deal with your disabilities, as most of the pets mentioned above are trainable, intelligent, and want to please. Just remember, however, that unless you and your pet meet the ADA standards, you cannot go public with your pet unless it is to a dog park.

As for the title of this blog, Miss Molly showed no humor when I started the joke, “So a pig, a fish, and an iguana go into a restaurant–” As Miss Molly knows, they are not permitted in public.

Post your Comments: 

What is the most unusual pet you know of that helps someone with disabilities? Please reply below. 

Sources cited:

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.

(123) Click those Double Dewclaws: Army Cyber Command

Miss Molly profile

 Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


The Dark Side of Star Wars 

This Christmas, Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits the big screen to take us on a remake journey through space. The first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, aired in 1977—just two years after I graduated from high school and nearly ten years after William returned from Vietnam. Our nation dropped its jaw with vivid images of Darth Vader and an indestructible army, flaunting our vulnerability to alien cultures and the dark side powerful enough to destroy planets. 

Stars and Stripes released an article this week titled, “Army creating cyber unit using soldiers and civilians” by Seth Robson. Coming out of Yokota Air Base, the article reported that Cyber Command has established 20 cyber units with plans to add 21 more by the end of next year, according to Lt. Gen Cardon. The article described fantastic operations that led me to the world of US Cyber Command.

USCYBERCOM

Thirty-three years after Star Wars blasted into American life, the Army birthed USCYBERCOM, an operational-level Army force linked with the Second Army. Its mission is summarized below:

USCYBERCOM plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes, and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full-spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries.

(USCYBERCOM website)

Lauding credit for 2015 USCYBERCOM accomplishments, the White House posted a lengthy Fact Sheet. Accomplishments focus on the sharing of information between government agencies; new cybersecurity legislation; public private security collaboration; cybersecurity training; secure purchasing; creation of a Cyberthreat office; threat blockage programs; and, new coalitions with Brazil, India, Japan, UK, and the Gulf states.

USCYBERCOM’s efforts will also support the Armed Services’ ability to confidently conduct high-tempo, effective operations as well as protect command and control systems and the cyberspace infrastructure supporting weapons system platforms from disruptions, intrusions and attacks.

(USCYBERCOM website)

Public Access

The Molly Blog often refers to public access as a term in ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) that allows service animals access to public places. USCYBERCOM wants service dogs and their Veterans to have full access to cyber information. Let’s give ‘em a high paw!

At the Army Cyber web site, we want all viewers to be able to have equal access to important cyber security information. USCYBERCOM website

Looking for Cyber Warriors 

USCYBERCOM is gearing up in a time when technology changes as fast as we change undergarments. With the goal to add 21 more cyber teams in the next year, the organization actively recruits for cyber warriors, both civilian and military to employ a total of 1,899 personnel. Applications are being taken for Cyber Threat Analysts, Security Specialists, Management Analysts, Intelligence Operations Specialists, and more. To check out these opportunities, visit the USCYBERCOM job site.

An Unplugged Dog

I must admit that I am at a loss for understanding much of the available information on cybersecurity. I am part of the vintage Star Wars era where there were no personal computers, cell phones, or televisions without antennas–a time when spam was an inexpensive meal. There is so much more to USCYBERCOM and its methods to protect Americans than I could ever share in a blog.

Molly shares my dinosaur traits. Television bores her unless HGTV rings a doorbell, in which case we have to tell her stand down lest she attack a non-existent intruder. The closest she will get to a keyboard is the clicking sound her double dewclaws make crossing our wood floor.

Molly and I rejoice, however, in the efforts of the US Army to keep us safe in space. After all, space is the one frontier where service animals and their Veterans can go without fear of being denied public access.

Post your Comments: 

What was your reaction the first time you watched the original Star Wars movie? Please reply below. 

Sources cited:

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.

(112) Reason to Celebrate: Another Legal Victory for Veterans and their Service Dogs

 Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


The headlines read, “Vet wins service-dog trial.” We celebrate this victory thanks to Juan Alonzo-Miranda and his service dog, Goldie, who took on Schlumberger Technology Corp. of Texas for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Alonzo-Miranda’s attorney commented to the San Antonio Express-News, “Today is a blue-ribbon day for America and the veterans who have protected us. San Antonio can be proud to be the place that lit the way for our veterans who suffer PTSD and who served us so well in war, and now want to serve us in peace.”

Alonzo-Miranda received a settlement of $5,386.50 for lost overtime wages due to his employer’s failure to provide reasonable accommodations for his disability. He also received $23,205 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering.

Veteran Alonzo-Miranda served two tours in Iraq as a Marine and one with the Texas National Guard. The San Antonio Express-News reported that he was honored for fighting in some of the war’s fiercest combat. He served as a mechanic on large oil field equipment when employed by Schlumberger.

Goldie is an eight-year old female Labrador mix trained for PTSD services by the nonprofit organization, Train a Dog-Save a Warrior. According to court documents, Alonzo-Miranda’s employer required him to submit a number of medical reports and documentation explaining why he needed the dog at work and what other accommodations could be made instead of the service animal. ADA does not permit an employer to make such a request. It took Schlumberger six months to approve Alonzo-Miranda’s request to bring his service dog to work. The company terminated his employment shortly after he filed the lawsuit.

Juan Alonzo-Miranda joins Veteran Jeffrey Crockett in Miss Molly’s Golden Paw Award program for daring to challenge the system and prevailing! Because of the courage and tenacity of these two Veterans, life will be a bit easier for other Veterans and their service animals. Truly, news of this victory makes it a good day to celebrate!

Happy Birthday, Miss Molly 

DSCN2301Although August 1 is the date we chose as Miss Molly’s birthday, we celebrate today to share her birthday party with you. We cannot be there when you celebrate your service animal’s birthday so perhaps we can share this day together on behalf of all service dogs. Happy Birthday, Miss Molly, and to all of you wonderful service animals across the country. We know our Veterans rely on you and that you make their lives more manageable.

Miss Molly comments, “Happy Birthday, fellow pup’sters and congrats, Goldie. You give us plenty of reason to celebrate! Bark-outs to you all.”

Post your Comments: 

Do you have a story of a Veteran, who challenged an ADA violation and prevailed? Please reply below. 

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

Sources cited:

  • Danner, Patrick. “Vet wins service-dog trial” in March 23, 2015, San Antonio Express-News as retrieved on July 29, 2015.
  • Danner, Patrick. “Iraq War veteran’s service dog trial set to start” in March 16, 2015, San Antonio Express-News as retrieved on July 29, 2015.

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.

(99) Attention Disabled Veterans: Don’t Take the Train!

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Our summer vacation with Miss Molly presented interesting obstacles with her size. Many of our desired eating places were so small that her caboose would have protruded outside the door. We stay away from such places since trying to squeeze her inside would create problems for patrons, Molly, the owner, and us. Could you imagine the problems we would encounter with her size if we traveled by train?

Actually, Molly and William are not the only Veteran/Service Dog team, who would be left behind. Of the 482 stations serviced by Amtrak, only 48 met ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards. While Amtrak is responsible for only 376 of these stations, only 18 of its stations met ADA requirements by April 1 of this year—25 years after our country adopted ADA. Amtrak repeatedly failed to comply, even with deadlines and extensions for compliance.

On June 9, the Department of Justice (DOJ) publicly released its notice of non-compliance sent to Joseph Boardman, the CEO of Amtrak. The notice stated that Amtrak failed to meet multiple deadlines to bring intercity stations, parking, and other facilities into compliance with ADA. Amtrak misreported progress by claiming certain stations remained exempt from ADA by distorting facts about ridership. The company blamed federal Department of Transportation regulations for some of its failures to comply.

Examining over 5,000 pages of data submitted by Amtrak, it appeared the company could not account for all of its stations. It cited the cost of compliance at over $2 billion. The DOJ examined a 153-page spreadsheet of disability access complaints recorded by Amtrak. Complaints reported included no lifts to get passengers with wheelchairs on board, no wheelchair accessible restrooms, lack of signage, ticket counters and other facilities too high, no handicapped parking, and even cases where the wheelchair ramps projected into traffic lanes.

The DOJ notice of remedial action requires Amtrak to make all applicable stations compliant, which includes ensuring proper access for service animals. It must also educate employees on the requirements of ADA, hold employees accountable for non-compliance, and pay compensatory damages to individuals for injuries caused by Amtrak’s failures. The DOJ indicated it will seek litigation to remedy Amtrak’s refusal to comply. The clock started ticking on Amtrak’s response on June 9 with 14 days to respond.

Given that 25 years failed to produce much of any result, a 14-day response period extended to Amtrak to assure the DOJ that it will cooperate seems far too long a time period. After all, Amtrak reported directly to Congress on multiple occasions to assure our elected officials of satisfactory progress when none was made. I’d say the train definitely left the station on this one—and Amtrak missed the train!

When I discussed this matter with Miss Molly, she sniffed and pawed over her head in disbelief. Her only comment was, “Golly.”

Post your Comments: 

Have you even taken or tried to take an Amtrak train and encountered access issues with your disability? Please reply below. 

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.

(68) Do Working Dogs Pay Taxes? Deductions for service dogs

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)


Tax Question:

Molly works, taking care of William. She eases his anxiety attacks and assists with balance. In exchange, she receives room and board, food, transportation, medical insurance, and love. Is she required to pay taxes?

Answer:

No. Service dogs are not required to pay taxes, however. . . 

Tax Breaks for Service Dogs

For 2014 taxes, the IRS issued Publication 502 for health and medical expenses. Service dogs are mentioned on the bottom left-hand column of page 8. Here is the excerpt from Publication 502: 

Guide Dog or Other Service Animal

You can include in medical expenses the costs of buying, training, and maintaining a guide dog or other service animal to assist a visually impaired or hearing disabled person, or a person with other physical disabilities. In general, this includes any costs, such as food, grooming, and veterinary care, incurred in maintaining the health and vitality of the service animal so that it may perform its duties. (Source: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p502.pdf)

Even though dogs that assist handlers with PTSD are granted public access under ADA, these dogs are not included in the IRS deduction unless they provide support for a physical disability. For example, Miss Molly is trained to assist William with PTSD and with brace and balance to help support his physical condition; therefore, she qualifies for the deduction as a medical expense.

John J. Ensminger said in his book Service and Therapy Dogs in American Society that while federal law provides for deductions, benefits often flow through the state tax returns. States vary on the deductions so service dog owners should consult with their tax advisers for state tax benefits. (Ensminger, 234)

Other Financial Service Dog Benefits

Some states regulate service dog registration fees. In many cases, a handler/owner does not pay licensing fees upon proof of training. Miss Molly’s registration required proof of her service dog status and entitled us to a no-cost registration.

Ensminger stated that food stamp eligibility covers dog food and veterinarian bills for hearing and seeing eye dogs. The issue of coverage by dogs that assist with physical disabilities is unclear. (Ensminger, 236)

Individual states offer different benefits. For example, Washington welfare assistance includes food for a service animal. In New Mexico, public assistance long-term managed care covers service animals. Montana provides supplies and care for service animals under certain conditions. (Ensminger, 236-237)

 Greatest Tax-Free Benefit  Molly and William on sofa

Of course, the greatest benefit of all when considering a service animal is tax-free. Love and devotion flows directly from the service animal to the owner. . .and no tax is involved.

Post your Comments: 

What special benefits does your state or city offer for your service animal? Please comment below. 

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

Source cited: Ensminger, John J. Service and Therapy Dogs in American Society. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas, 2010.

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.

(66) Assert Your Disability Rights

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)


DOJ Fights for Disabled Rights

This week, I received an email from the Department of Justice, announcing an agreement between the US government and the Days Inn (Tulsa, OK, Tuscany Inn), about the denial of the Days Inn to provide accommodations to a veteran of the US Air Force and US Marines. The veteran, his service dog, and his family with four young children were denied lodging twice because of the service dog. The Inn cited its no-pet policy as a basis for denying the veteran and his family a room.

The United States government sued Sairam Enterprises (owner of the Tuscany Inn) for denying the veteran, his service dog, and his family accommodations. The US won. The consent decree reached by the US Department of Justice orders the following: 

Sairam will pay $5,000 to the family and will provide its employees with training regarding the ADA and the protections it provides to guests with service animals; it will also post signs and other announcements at its hotel stating its willingness to lodge travelers with service animals.

The lawsuit mentioned that the veteran experienced a series of disabilities in addition to PTSD. His service animal helps him with balance and retrieving objects. The animal also warns the veteran of and assists with panic attacks. The incident with the Days Inn triggered a serious panic attack in the veteran, which lasted two days. Living with a veteran with PTSD, I understand how serious this violation is and how devastating it can be on not just the veteran but also the family.

Kudos to the Veteran 

While I do not know the veteran of this lawsuit, I appreciate what it took to persist with a second attempt to reserve the room and then take action to file a complaint with the Department of Justice when he was denied a second time. He took the correct action and did attempt to remedy the problemDog biscuit and rose on pillow himself. When that did not work, he sought the help of the DOJ. As a result, another business opens its doors to ADA accommodations and more employees receive training that is positive for the disabled community. If you visit the Tuscany Inn in Tulsa with your service dog, you might even find a dog biscuit on the pillow.

Note: If you would like to be added to the DOJ mailing list, you can sign up at www.ada.gov. If you experience discrimination or are denied reasonable accommodations for your disability in a public place, you can file a complaint with the Justice Department at the Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800 514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD) or on-line at http://www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm.

The Service Animal is Not a Pet 

It is important for veterans with service dogs to take them to public places to practice the animals’ service and social skills. By doing this, the veteran maintains independence and the animal remains sharp. Just remember that your dog is a service animal and not a pet.

Pajama Day 

Miss Molly forgets her role as a service animal on days like today and wants to be a pet. Today is a Pajama Day. Since last night, snowfall reached the one-foot mark in our little alcove on Cheyenne Mountain. With no doctor’s appointments, we stay home in our pajamas well past noon. I am writing, William engages on social media, and Molly snores in the closet. William needs her to stand and steady himself after his recent battle with shingles and persistent back pain. While we want to let her sleep, she is his service animal and must perform her duties. A treat and a scratch behind her floppy ears remind her we love her regardless of her designation as a service animal.

Post your Comments:

Does your service animal assist you at home? Please comment below.

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.

(64) Doggy Dental Floss: How the DOJ takes on small cities to help the disabled

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)


 Antics of a Big Dog 

While the East Coast digs out from a record-breaking snowfall, we enjoy a warm spell that melted the two feet of snow that settled in our small corner of Cheyenne Mountain two weeks ago. Molly enjoys the warmth and settles on our balcony. Her snoring rattles the metal railing, keeping birds in flight above the bird feeder. She sleeps contentedly until an intruder enters her zone. The side of the house shakes, as she jumps to her feet. Barking unbecoming of a service dog echoes through  the canyon, suggesting a horrid catastrophe befell the Graft household. A woman walks her terrier on the road beneath the balcony. No catastrophe at all—just Miss Waverly walking Mini-Muffin.

Miss Molly loves barking down the little dog. I try to keep her away from them for fear of what she might do given her ferocious bark. I envision her digesting the pup and waddling away with a swayed belly. I imagine the terrier’s tail, sticking out between her teeth. In reality, Molly enjoys romping with little canines provided they do not challenge her. One bark of protest sends the little dog rushing back to its owner with tail tucked between its legs.

Project Civic Access 

Not unlike Miss Molly, the Department of Justice (DOJ) takes on the small dog—in this case, small cities. Since 1999, the DOJ routinely tours and inspects small cities throughout the country to find ways cities can improve their access to disabled Americans. The DOJ explained on its website that it focuses on small cities since they are the most common form of cities in the US. The DOJ started its review with university towns and tourist locations.

Known as Project Civic Access, the department works with public officials to find and correct violations of Title II of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). So far, the DOJ has reached 208 compliance agreements with 193 agencies covering all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. A list of the compliance agreements is accessible on the DOJ ADA website.

The DOJ reported that when contacted, cities respond eagerly to correct deficiencies and even help in identifying problems. Some compliance requires a plan due to cost or size of the project. Many improvements are made immediately. 

The project takes on facilities that include, “City and town halls; police and fire stations and sheriff departments; courthouses; centers for health care delivery, childcare, teen and senior activities, conventions, and recreation; animal shelters; libraries; baseball stadiums; parks (including ice skating rinks, public pools, playgrounds, ball fields and bleachers, band shells and gazebos).” The DOJ seeks compliance in the cities’ communication methods, 9-1-1 systems, and policies and procedures that affect public access.

Every week, I receive an email from the DOJ (you can sign up for these emails at the DOJ website), talking about another settlement agreement for improved disability access. Even more impressive than Miss Molly’s ferocious bark is the achievement of the DOJ. Here is a peek at its accomplishments for this week:

Justice Department Announces ADA Title I Settlement Agreements with the cities of DeKalb, Illinois; Vero Beach, Florida; Fallon, Nevada; and Isle of Palms, South Carolina

The Justice Department announced today that it reached settlement agreements under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with the cities of DeKalb, Illinois; Vero Beach, Florida; Fallon, Nevada; and Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Under the settlement agreements, each city agrees not to conduct any medical examinations or make disability-related inquiries of job applicants before a conditional offer of employment is made, and to make its online employment opportunities website and job applications conform with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which are industry guidelines for making web content accessible.

The Department of Justice wants to hear from the disabled community about barriers to public access and that is a good thing for the veteran community. To find out more about the ADA or these settlement agreements, you can access the ADA.gov website or call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

Although the DOJ work with small cities may seem like removing a tumor with dental floss, its work makes a big impact (kind of like the impact of a small dog on gigantic Molly). In fact, I think a Golden Paw Award is in order for the Department of Justice. High Five Paw to the Department of Justice! By the way, the DOJ is celebrating its 25th year of improving disability access. This is one birthday cake Molly would love to devour.

Post your Comments: 

Have you identified a barrier to public access for the disabled in your community or in a community you visited? Please comment below. 

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.

 

(48) I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes: Ever hear of a service snake?

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)

  Spiders and Snakes

Do you remember the song, Spiders and Snakes” sung by Jim Stafford in the 1970s?  I am reminded of the song when I hear from Molly blog readers, telling me their non-canine pets offer the same type of therapy and comfort given by Molly to William. Many suggest that I should talk about these pets. When researching Molly Blog 47 about flying with a service dog, references suggested people actually use snakes and reptiles of every sort to comfort them.

Exotic Pets

While William and I waited in a doctor’s office, I came upon the April 2014 National Geographic that ran an article on exotic pets. I realized that many different animals, including exotic animals, can replicate the love and affection offered by a service dog. We must remember, though, that ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) only allows public access for service dogs that assist a person with a disability when that service animal is trained for a specific task to help with that disability. The only other animal allowed public access in ADA is a miniature horse.

Therapy and emotional support animals do not qualify under ADA for public access. These animals, however, provide an invaluable service, which might include meeting a veteran or others’ emotional needs.

The Value of Emotional Support Pets

John Ensminger (In Service and Therapy Dogs in American Society) shares information about how valuable an emotional support animal is. Although, he focuses primarily on canines, he addresses the benefits of cats, horses, and bunnies. Emotional support dogs are used in hospitals to calm patients before surgery or difficult procedures. Mental health institutes employ animals to help patients focus and develop independence. These animals motivate patients to care for themselves by learning to care for an animal. Scientific tests have shown the benefits of a therapy animal in the classroom with children and in the courtroom when a child must testify against an aggressor or molester. Alzheimer patients enjoy the benefits of dogs by keeping patients engaged socially. The elderly experience more engagement in life once exposed to dogs and other pets. Longer lives have been documented for pet owners versus seniors who do not own a pet or have not been exposed to a pet in an assistance home.

In the research about a service dog’s right to fly with his/her handler, the Department of Transportation (DOT) acknowledges that people want their pet snake, lizard, or rodent to accompany them on a flight. Not so fast, lovers of reptiles—DOT says they must ride in the cargo hold in containers. It does confirm the point, however, that people consider non-canine pets as life enhancing and therapeutic.

 Unusual Pets

In the National Geographic article by Lauren Slater (pp. 96-119), she wrote about exotic pets and their owners. She mentioned Melani Butera, a veterinarian, who adopted Dillie, a farm deer, after the deer’s mother’s abandoned her. The deer slept on Ms. Butera’s bed at one time but eventually earned her own bedroom, including a bed, pink lace bed coverings, feminine accents, and her name in letters across the wall.

One woman raised a capybara. Say what? A capybara is the largest rodent in the world and is related to the guinea pig. (Here is a Wiki link if you want to see what a capybara looks like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capybara.) This pet owner loves swimming and snuggling with her capybara.

Michelle Berk owned a kinkajou, Winnie, until she encountered problems when the kinkajou reached sexual maturity. She released Winnie to a wild animal preserve. Ms. Berk’s comments are telling about the important role Winnie played in her and her family’s life:

‘I’ve learned that Winnie never really needed us. She didn’t need to be our pet. She didn’t need to be locked up. We got her because we needed her.’

Ms. Slater mentioned that of the large land mammals on earth, “just a dozen have been successfully domesticated.” Consequently, as loveable as they seem, these exotic animals are still wild. That is what makes the dog or cat an ideal companion. These two animals have endured generations of domestication. In fact, domestication of the dog enables it to serve and participate in our lives.

So, back to the song. Even though females generally do not enjoy being around spiders and snakes, typically men do so I expect some of our readers use these creepy crawlers as therapeutic companions. My sister will make me recant the statement that females generally do not enjoy being around spiders and snakes. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, she and her husband own hundreds of reptile critters.

 Replace Molly?

I have not told Molly about these different types of therapy animals, as she might feel slighted. After all, she eats spiders, tromps snakes, chases mice, and barks at muley deer. She would be devastated to know she could be replaced by any of them. Not to worry, Miss Molly. William would have a difficult time using a spider for brace and balance.

Post your Comments: 

Do you have an unusual pet that offers you or a family member emotional support? Please comment below.  

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.