Woman Says Joplin Business Refused To Let Service Animal Inside
A Webb City woman files a complaint with the state government over what she says was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The woman says she is disabled, and the only thing that can help with that disability is her service dog.
An attorney, though, says she may not have a case.
Daniele Verran says severe anxiety takes a disabling toll on her.
“I don’t walk out the door,” says Verran.
But four-legged Zeus knows what to do.
“When he senses that I go into a panic attack, he will make me focus all my energy and all my attention on him. So basically, all surrounding people, places, whatever, just disappear, and I focus on him,” says Verran.
Verran calls Zeus her service dog, and carries in her purse a note from a doctor that reads, “Patient needs to have a service dog with her at all times due to medical conditions.” The federal Americans with Disabilities Act says service animals have rights.
“It simply states that he is allowed to go with me anywhere that the public is allowed to be,” says Verran.
Verran says a worker at a Joplin convenience store at Fourth and Byers streets broke the law.
“Stopped in the aisle, looked at me, and told me that I had to leave with him (Zeus). I stopped, looked at her, and says ma’am, he is a service dog, and I pointed to his vest. I let her know I have a letter from my doctor, she didn’t care. She told me that since my fiance had come in with me, that I could take him (Zeus) and wait outside while my fiance gets whatever drinks that we needed,” says Verran.
A convenience store worker didn’t want to be interviewed on camera, but said that Verran’s dog wasn’t wearing the right color vest.
Joplin attorney Scott Voorhees says there are no rules for vest colors. He also says chances are, Verran doesn’t have a federally-recognized service animal.
“Most of the time, support animals don’t meet those strict requirements for the ADA. While they perform a legitimate service to the individual with the comfort or reduction of anxiety, many times, they are not recognized by the ADA,” says Voorhees.
Voorhees says dogs that help a person through a physical disability are service dogs, though.
But it doesn’t hurt for business workers to show compassion.
“We get too caught-up in what is legally required. Like in our office, obviously we’re going to let anything in legally-required. But if you came here with anxiety, and you had a dog, even if it’s not trained, even if it’s not recognized, and you needed it for your own comfort and well-being, we would make some arrangements,” says Voorhees.
Verran hopes future business workers she meets understand her situation.
Verran asks,” Where’s our quality of life?”
Voorhees says it’s important for business workers and people with service animals to communicate with each other. Instead of invading someone’s privacy and medical history, ask, how does that service animal help? Voorhees also says while federal law may not classify an animal as a service animal, municipal law may.