Categorized | Community

Do’s and Don’ts regarding service dogs and federal law

STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO

Victoria DuMaurier’s service dog Kemah is guaranteed access to public places under federal law. Following a serious car accident, DuMaurier found herself relying on a service dog for assistance. She also advocates for the rights of those with service dogs and helps educate the public about the canine helpers. Courtesy photo

Victoria DuMaurier’s service dog Kemah is guaranteed access to public places under federal law. Following a serious car accident, DuMaurier found herself relying on a service dog for assistance. She also advocates for the rights of those with service dogs and helps educate the public about the canine helpers. Courtesy photo

Victoria DuMaurier wants to clear up some misinformation and misunderstanding about service dogs.

DuMaurier said people with service dogs still get denied entrance to public places because of the animals. But, she countered, the Americans with Disabilities Act lays it out quite clearly how people with service dogs are to be treated.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, “Under the ADA, state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.”

DuMaurier personally understands the vital role service dogs perform for those who rely on them for assistance.

Almost two decades ago, she was involved in a life-changing car crash. Her vehicle was hit by a drunken driver. It spun several times as it hit other vehicles.

Her injuries required the assistance of a service dog. DuMaurier currently owns two: Rodeo, an 11-year-old yellow Labrador, and, Kemah, a 7-year chocolate Lab and Rodeo’s daughter

“Both are sweet girls,” she said.

Rodeo is now retired with Kemah picking up those duties.

Federal law requires that a service dog be under control of the handler at all times. Beyond that, places can’t restrict access of those with service dogs, with very few exceptions, to facilities where the general public is allowed.

DuMaurier also explained that there are only two questions, under the ADA, people can ask about a service dog:

• Is this a service dog?

• What is your dog trained to do for you?

“Those are the only two questions you can ask,” she said. “(If someone asks something else), it’s a federal law being broken.”

Something else that raises DuMaurier’s hackles is the rise of fee-based online certification services.

“People on the internet have fraudulently sold (the certifications) to people,” she said. “People are getting scammed.”

Under the ADA, service dog handlers don’t need documentation or certification that their canine is a service dog, and entities can’t require such information. According to federal law, people “are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.”

“That is federal law,” DuMaurier added.

After her accident, DuMaurier retired from her career and began another as an artist. She also picked up a third calling: raising and training retrievers to be service dogs for military members and veterans — free of charge.

She said she has a heart for helping those who need these canine companions.

And she hopes people will admire service dogs, which often wear vests, from a distance. While they are cute and highly intelligent, they are performing the job of keeping their owners safe. That’s why the vests ask people to leave them alone.

“People need to help us, not make it more difficult,” DeMaurier said. 

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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