Guide dog discrimination in Athens Georgia

This evening, at the ?Georgia Square Mall in Athens, GA, My husband Michael Barnes and I, along with a couple of friends were taking care of some personal business, when Michael was approached by a security guard by the name of G. Keene. Keen asked whether Michael’s dog was a service dog.
“Yes.” Michael said.
“Well, your dog needs to wear a vest,” Keene replied.
Michael pointed out to Keene that his guide dog wasn’t required to wear a vest, because as any guide dog user, or establishment will, now, that the harness is identification enough. Michael got his black lab guide dog named Indie, from Pilot dogs Inc., located in Columbus, OH.
Keene continued to argue with Michael, and our friend and driver Pete Nichols, stood up for Michael, and Keene threatened to call the police and escort both Pete and Michael from the Mall.
When Michael left the mall, and became very irate, he said “Blind Power!”, and others followed suit. After this scene, Keene left him and us alone.
This is not the first time my husband has been bothered by management or security because of his guide dog. This type of incident has happened more than five times at the same mall by the same security guards. He had a recent incident at Kroger on Alps Road, where the manager supposedly banned him from coming into the store, because the lady running the self-checkout machines was scared of Indie. However, we have been back in the same Kroger, and the same manager has said hello to Michael, and said nothing about Indie at all.
He’s not the only one who has been accosted by managers of businesses about a guide dog. I have had a similar problem myself when I had a black lab/golden mix named Star, from Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, FL. My x-husband I along with my in0laws were at Ryan’s in Canton, GA. David Carter was the manager of that particular store. He and his assistant manager were trying to say that we needed identity tags for our dogs, which isn’t true. We were seated at the back of the restaurant, and when we showed Carter the laws and our ID cards, he wanted to start a stink. We went somewhere else to eat, after getting our money back, and I found the phone number of the Ryan’s corporate office and put in a complaint. We received a return call introducing us to the district manager, who “educated” Carter. I believe that he was fired.
I had a friend who was refused a room at the Ramada Inn because they thought her dog was a pet, and not a service dog. She sued the hotel for noncompliance of the ADA.
There are countless incidents of people not complying with ADA laws where dog guides are concerned. If you are a business owner who has denied a blind person access because of a service dog, I suggest that you do your homework and google the guide dog laws in your state. If you are a guide dog handler and have been denied access, contact the owner of the company, the security company who runs security, or even the news media to make a formal complaint. If you know of attorneys who handle discrimination cases, please feel free to share links to these sources in the comments below, so that other people who are harassed because of their service animals can have a point of contact. This is one of many disability rights that need to be advocated for. Please educate your local law enforcement, so you don’t run into the same problems that I and others have run into in the past.
Thanks and happy reading.

4 thoughts on “Guide dog discrimination in Athens Georgia”

  1. As someone severely allergic to dogs, I wonder why it’s a hardship for you to have the dog wear the vest or even some kind of marker for people to know he’s a service dog? I get annoyed when I’m in a shop or store and people bring their pets-especially when they allow them to approach and lick people such as me. I’m not saying you do that, but having a disability (asthma) makes me feel more understanding toward someone that has a service dog rather than a pet. Even if the law states you don’t “need” to have the vest, I think it’s common curtesy to others who share the same space. Thanks for your time!

    • First of all, the harness is identification enough that my husband’s dog is a dog guide second of all, the dog is under my husbands control and does not go up to people and lick them, when people try to pet her, he tells them not to pet her because she’s working. Other service dogs may need a vest, but not dog guides. I appreciate your concern, but that’s what the law states.

    • I am so sick of people discriminating against blind people and their visual aids suchas a dog but cane or whatever, and I feel like I had to be the disability rights advocate here. Thank you so much. Please share.


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