This is just absolutly amazing!! How can court officials, who are supposed to know the law, deny entrance to a service dog?

TRAVERSE CITY – A recent trip to district court left Susan King doggone frustrated.

The certified service dog trainer and director of Service Dogs International Inc. never expected to cause a commotion when she showed up at the 86th District Court Wednesday with her service dog Beyonce to face arraignment on a domestic violence charge.

“I was shocked and I was embarrassed,” King said. “They kept asking me in loud voices ‘What’s your disability?’ And people started to gather around.

King said she was stopped at the court’s security checkpoint, where guards allegedly told her Beyonce, a 16-month-old poodle, couldn’t enter the facility. She said she gave a guard a photo identification that showed she is a certified trainer, and he relayed the message to 86th District Court Judge Thomas Phillips.

But Phillips wouldn’t allow Beyonce, who was wearing a marked service cape, in the courthouse, King alleges.

“I think most people know that service dogs are allowed in public places. It is just surprising that at the courthouse, where they should know the law, is where I had a problem,” King said.

King eventually dropped off Beyonce at her attorney’s office so she could show up for arraignment, where she pleaded not guilty. She contends Phillips then discussed the issue of her dog on the court record.

“I thought he would just say I wasn’t aware of the law and I’m sorry or something, but instead he said I should have had better sense than to bring my dog with me,” she said.

Clarence Gomery, King’s attorney, said he spoke with Phillips and told the judge he believed the law requires Beyonce be admitted to public buildings.

“He did verify that the dog shouldn’t come into court, which is contrary to state law,” Gomery said. “This was initiated solely by my client because of her strong belief in the law and her training in these animals.

“It is not meant for any disrespect for court personnel and Judge Phillips, but the law is the law,” Gomery said.

Phillips said he consulted with top state court officials before deciding not to allow Beyonce in. He said the law does not apply to courthouses.

“Before I denied access I called the supreme court administrator’s office … and they agreed with me that we did not have to allow the dog into the courthouse. She was there to be arraigned on a violent crime. That was her purpose to be there that day. She was not there to train a dog,” Phillips said.

“I don’t want her to be concerned about training her dog when she is supposed to be there to be advised of her rights,” Phillips added. “I did tell her that if she wants to come back to train the dog in the courthouse, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.”

Former state Rep. Doug Spade, of Adrian, works as a consultant for Michigan’s Commission for Disability Concerns. Spade, the second blind legislator in Michigan’s history, has used service dogs since 1979 and said the law is fairly clear about where the dogs legally can go.

“It is a misdemeanor offense to deny a legitimate service dog or dog in training into a public place if there is proper identification,” Spade said, adding he has experience with service dog legislation. “It is important that a dog who is being trained for a person with a disability is exposed to virtually any situation where he and the person with a disability could be faced with down the road.

“The success rate increases phenomenally if a family raising the dog … socializes the dog and works the dog in all sorts of situations,” he said.

King said she tried to report the barred dog incident to city police shortly after her arraignment, but contends they initially refused to accept a complaint. A few hours later, an officer called King and told her an investigation was under way, she alleges.

“The police refusing to take the complaint upset me the most,” King said. “I think I am probably entitled to an apology from the police.”

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Alan Schneider said he received a police report about the incident on Friday and will forward the case to the attorney general for review.

“What the report says is that a lawyer with the Michigan Supreme Court said the judge had the discretion and that it was not a violation of the statute,” Schneider said. “What I am going to do to fulfill my obligation is I will send this to the attorney general to see if he even believes it should be reviewed by another attorney.” (Record-Eagle)

Ok, now is it just me or is there something wrong here?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.”

Under the description I don’t see an exemption of courts of law. Seems like someone is making a big mistake here. ‘All businesses open to the public’ certainly seems to include courts. What do you think?

Be Sociable, Share!
Email This Post Email This Post

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!