Service dogs are a necessity for those who rely on themPublished 10:35pm Monday, October 7, 2013
Selma resident Cindy Burcham is often denied access into local businesses when she attempts to enter with her service animals.
Burcham, who was diagnosed with a seizure disorder, travels with two Jack Russell Terriers named Marley and Harley, which are registered and certified service dogs that assist her in case of a seizure.
Two-year-old Marley alerts her of a seizure by tapping her, whining and tilting his head and running around in circles. Three-year-old Harley, which is the seizure alert response dog, goes to get help and leads them back to Burcham. She taught both of them to retrieve medication for her.
Burcham said she feels more comfortable with her dogs than without them.
“When I have them with me, the chances of falling down is about 10 percent,” Burcham. “When they are not with me, it’s about 50 percent.”
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, “privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls and sports facilities are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The act requires the businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.”
The act defines service animals as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.”
Despite the law, some businesses in Selma won’t allow her to enter their establishment with her seizure assistance dogs.
“A lot of businesses here in Selma assume, that just because I don’t look, talk, or act disabled, that I’m trying to get dogs in,” Burcham said.
In response, Burcham has filed police reports against some businesses in an attempt to gain access into their businesses with her seizure assistance dogs.
She recalled one incident when a business had a sign that read, “no pets allowed, service animals welcome” wouldn’t allow her dogs in the building.
Burcham entered the store with her dogs and was immediately greeted by the manager.
“‘I’m going to have to ask you to take your dog out,’” Burcham recalled the manager saying.
“I said they are service animals; they’re for medical purposes,” she said. “I got a response saying that I did not look disabled, act disabled, and I surely did not talk disabled and she was going to have to ask me to remove them from the premises.”
After the exchange, Burcham called the Selma Police Department and filed a report. The following week, the regional manager of the business called her and apologized.
“It’s important that businesses in Selma don’t prejudge [the dogs], and recognize their abilities,” Burcham said. “If they would just get to know them, they would kind of understand them and the service that they provide.”
For more on the rules regarding service animals, contact the U.S. Department of Justice at (800) 514-0301.