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Mobilize Class Action Lawsuit to Stop “Emotional Support” Dogs and Pets in Public Buildings, Planes

I am working in my state to get a bill introduced on behalf of those of us with life-threatening asthma, allergies and anaphylaxis in regards to this ubiquitous problem of fake service pets, "emotional support" dogs and just general entitlement of pet owners bringing pets into nearly every public building, store and on public transportation. Those of us with dander-sensitive disabilities have been suffering in silence, are being pushed out of our communities and have been ignored, treated rudely and unheard while the number of dogs in stores, public buildings, hotels and on public transportation is multiplying to an out of control degree.Store and business owners and managers, building managers/owners, airlines and other public transportation companies are failing to adequately accommodate our rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act by allowing "emotional support" dogs and other pets into their buildings and vehicles and by claiming to be "dog friendly". This is illegal, but without a lobby or someone to start a class action suit, we have no recourse. Those of us with dander disabilities need to unite and attempt to push for law changes or perhaps class action lawsuits. We should not be forced to leave stores, offices, businesses, buildings and events because dogs are being put ahead of human beings. It should be "People Before Pets"! What about places that are "human friendly"?Please reply to this if you are interested in being a part of organizing for some real changes to protect us and our families!

-Laurie

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  • Marie E Natzke

    You can count me in I live in Chicago Illinois…I had to leave a job I had for 32 years because a dog was brought into the work place and I had a bad asthma attack. 

  • LindaL

    I totally agree.  I can't go to church, because of dogs inside every Catholic church in Rockingham County and Kittery, Maine.  The NewHampshire Bishop's secretary told me not to go to church.

    I had to give up jobs and turn down jobs at furniture and mattress stores, because of dogs kept there or customers bringing dogs in, due to anaphylactic reactions I have to dogs.  I had been in the furniture industry for ten (10) years.

    Every conceivable place I attempt to go allows dogs:  grocery stores, medical offices, hospitals, even in intensive care units, lawyers, pharmacies, car dealerships, rental cars, restaurants, schools, government offices, Vocational Rehabilitation offices, Employment Security offices, Court buildings, flower shops, gift shops, big box stores, small stores, copy and print stores, photo shops, hardware stores, golf club houses  - I am sure I have forgotten to list some others.

    It is so comforting to know others understand my plight, as my speaking to store managers has not been very helpful.

     

     

     

  • LAC
    Marie E Natzke posted:

    You can count me in I live in Chicago Illinois…I had to leave a job I had for 32 years because a dog was brought into the work place and I had a bad asthma attack. 

    Nice to meet you, Marie. I also had to leave a job when they began allowing "emotional support" dogs into the building and refused to put me in an office isolated from the dander. I am forced to abandon my grocery cart and rush out of stores at least a few times per month and sometimes weekly, ending in asthma attacks and allergy attacks, due to this insanity of dogs being welcomed everywhere. I just discovered yesterday that there is no possible way I am able to safely fly to visit some family across country because no airline will allot a dander-free/animal-free flight for me, no matter how many months in advance I book.Let's see if we can get a bunch of people on here and come up with some ideas of how to remedy the violation of our ADA rights. I was thinking a great start that would generate a lot of media attention would be targeting airlines that offer no possible adequate, safe way for people with dander-sensitivity disabilities to access plane transportation; or targeting large corporations like Target that allow "emotional support" dogs to pass as "service dogs" and even allow pets to ride in shopping carts.A friend of mine has successfully seen some local action after he called the police to a Trader Joe's after tripping and falling on the leash of a woman's pet dog. The police issued the woman a fine for misrepresenting a service dog and now the store has put up detailed signage specifying that "emotional support" pets don't count as service dogs. In my state, misrepresenting a service dog is also illegal. In such states, we need to start calling the police to stores and buildings to investigate the obviously fake "emotional support" imposters. Stores and businesses won't like the disruptive law enforcement action and may start to finally crack down on pets in their stores. This is especially needed in places like Home Depot that call themselves "Dog friendly". For a store to do so is technically illegal under the ADA's protection of people with dander-sensitive disabilities.But even signage doesn't protect us: A local Whole Foods put up a sign similar to the one put up by the Trader Joe's chain. However, the WF managers still allow obviously fake "service dogs" into the building. I was made to sit in my car for 1/2 hour and wait for two dogs to leave the store so I could buy the special medical dietary items I can only find locally at Whole Foods (I was still exposed to the dander they and other dogs have left behind in the store, of course, and did have a mild asthma attack). When I was finally inside, quickly rushing to grab what I needed so I could get out fast, one of the managers actually suggested that if a dog were to come in while I was in there, I would need to leave– The dog and its owners wouldn't be expected to wait in their car like I was made to do!

  • LAC
    LindaL posted:

    I totally agree.  I can't go to church, because of dogs inside every Catholic church in Rockingham County and Kittery, Maine.  The NewHampshire Bishop's secretary told me not to go to church.

    I had to give up jobs and turn down jobs at furniture and mattress stores, because of dogs kept there or customers bringing dogs in, due to anaphylactic reactions I have to dogs.  I had been in the furniture industry for ten (10) years.

    LindaL, it is awful that we all have to suffer this violation of our ADA rights. No place is safe from the infiltration of fake "service dogs" and pets. They are in: Retail stores, hardware stores, home improvement stores, grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, business offices, mental health clinics, places of employment, libraries, municipal buildings, government buildings, gyms, hospitals, schools, churches, theaters, malls, car dealerships and other public buildings. Community events, airplanes and rental cars are other targets of fake “service animals”.Dogs are walked or carried into stores as well as concealed in purses, back packs and baby strollers. Dogs are put in shopping carts in stores, including in grocery carts where food is placed and where babies and toddlers sit. Public places are now doing events that include dogs and cats in malls, public pools, parks and even in school gymnasiums.

  • Shea

    I am in. I live in Florida. I have severe dander allergies that trigger a life-threatening allergic disease called Churg-Strauss Syndrome that affects my heart (I had a heart attack from it in 2012 from allergic blood cells called eosinophils surrounding my heart and choking it off), lungs (severe asthma that had to be controlled with daily oral steroids– I might be able to get off steroids if I didnt have so many places in public that allow dogs in whether they be emotional support or just pets people are bringing in), blood vessels (vasculitis), skin (contact hives), and in some cases anaphlaxis. 

    I had to leave the pharmacy because a puppy was there, I have had to leavelines because of "shopping cart dogs"– which finally have been banned in Publix, and I avoid stores with "pet-friendly" policies– I used to love Barnes and Noble as a social spot for coffee and to buy books but people started bringing their pets in and so I had to stop going. There was a dog in my doctors office and in my allergists office and I was told I would have to wait outside.

    I am on social security disability for my allergic disease due to its severity. I cannot fly on planes or go on any public transportation because drivers are forced to allow dogs in and cannot "prove" whether they are service animals or not. There is an obvioys abuse of the "service animal" title due to negligent and nonexistant regulations. Also the Florida law says allergies is not a valid reason to deny service animals entry into your store– which I find blatantly discriminatory.

    My world gets smaller and smaller every day, physically I have to be on more medication that has bad side effects sbd should not be taken for long periods of time but I cannot lower off them without being even more sensitive than I am to dander and with the abnormallly large and growing population of dogs indoors in public places makes it impossible to wean off the medicines (oral steroids, onhaled steroids and rescue inhalers). Emotionally I feel devalued as human being and anxious. I have tried to advocate for myself– managers hands are tied, owners feel lime victims themselves, pet owners are oblivious or dont care, AFA complaint was basically a waste of time as they replied they have many cases and cannot look into them all and will not pursue or further respond or investigate my complaint. 

    I would be very happy to join with others because on my own it is very disheartening.

     

  • Deborah Bartlett

    Hello all. I live in CT. Used to be that only service dogs were allowed in public places. That was mostly for the blind. Ok….that was not a problem. Rarely did you ever see a service dog. For the last 3 or 4 years everyone brings any size dog EVERYWHERE!!!!!!! Lowe's always has dogs and either they are on a leash, or in the seat of the cart, or in the cart. But why? Grocery stores are a place where this should be a big no-no. I always see this happen. Oh, but I can't leave my dog at home. Yes, you can! I guess alot of people don't have any respect for others. Especially the ones that load up with perfume. Maybe they don't know what it's like to have their airway close. Enough is enough. There is a place where they can bring their dogs…the pet store. I can understand if you had to try on a collar or sweater. Pet sensitive groups do not need to enter pet stores, because they do not have pets. Fine. Too many people are allowed to get away with too many things nowadays. I have seen this world change drastically since the time I was a child. I am 55 years old. Young people don't even know about the decent things I have seen and experienced. They are learning disrespect from the bad guys. I am glad that there are some parents that care and bring their children up properly. I can tell that everyone that posts on this forum is decent. You are all wonderful people. You don't deserve to go through anything to make you sicker than you already are. We all try to manage our illnesses each day. Have a nice Sunday night and take care! ❤ Debbie

  • Pljohns

    You are so right Debbie-we have 2 kids, age 20 and 17 and I see their friends being so disrespectful.  I will say, once they are disrespectful around our kids, they usually aren’t around them again.  DS#2 told his friend last Christmas if any of them even THOUGHT they had a cold or anything else, not to come to our house becuase he would throw them out becuase of me.  They also have told friends not to wear any cologn or perfume or they won’t be let in.  Our kids were raised to say yes ma’am and please and thank you and to be respectful-they know what we expect and that we won’t take anything less-no matter how old or big they are (they are 6’4 and 6’5).  

    Like you, I now see dog EVERYWHERE.  I am lucky and am not allergic to pets nor are they any type of trigger for me. We have 3 dogs but we NEVER take them anywhere public-except the dog park or dog store.  I will not inflict my pets on anyone else. I chose to have them-everyone else doesn’t and it’s not my right to take them anywhere.  Others should not get sick because of my choice.  I wish others understood this but heaven forbid they leave the pet at home.  I love my dogs dearly but they remain home alone every day until DS gets in from school and do just fine.  

    I recently did a presentation about being an asthmatic and part of my presentation was to tell people if they wanted to know what it was like to have asthma, get a COFFEE straw-not a big gulp one-put it in their mouths and pinch their nose and breathe only through the straw-it got their attention.  If people had to deal with what we do, maybe they would understand.

  • LAC

    It's great to see each one of you on here who is interested in putting a stop to the violation of our ADA rights as a result of pets and fake "service dogs" being allowed in public buildings and on public transportation!

    So we can be most effective, let's please keep the conversation ON TOPIC. Children are disrespectful because their needs are not being met in this culture, just like ours are not being met right now by this pet dander influx. The most disrespectful people we are dealing with regarding this pets-in-public issue are the ADULTS who act entitled to bring their dogs everywhere they wish, put them in grocery carts and hide them in strollers, backpacks and purses; or that speak rudely to us or swear at us when we kindly ask them to take the dogs outdoors; or that mock asthma and allergies, or refuse to ask that obviously fake "service dogs" be removed from their stores or building.

    Perhaps we could all list our states and whether or not our state has a law making it illegal to misrepresent a service dog. Also, are there any bills being introduced in your states to curtail this problem?

    I am from New Hampshire and we DO have a law on the books that states that it is a misdemeanor for a dog owner to misrepresent a service animal. In other words, it is technically illegal to claim that an emotional support pet is a "service dog", but this is a common practice and no one is enforcing it. I am currently working with a state representative in hopes that he will introduce legislation that will clarify and strengthen the current law to make penalties clearer and require education for store and business owners. I am also hoping he will put something in the bill that specifically states that store and business owners and managers must accommodate people with dander-sensitive disabilities.

    If you would like to start this in your state, respond and I will discuss how to go forward…

  • LindaL

    It is wonderful to know that we are not alone in our suffering, due to dogs being perpetually brought into public buildings.  My daughter, Laurie, started this post, and I am amazed that so many people have the same difficulties as she and I do when we want to venture outside our homes to do errands or anything else in public.  It seems that this problem has exploded within the last five (5) years or so, and getting worse every day.  They even bring their dogs to cemeteries, although there are signs prohibiting dogs being there.  When I pointed this out to a woman one day, when I went to visit my father's grave, she became very hostile, and I quickly drove off out of fear.  Her anger surprised me, because she was elderly, so I would have expected her to act respectfully of others.  At the cemetery where my grandson is buried, a dog had defecated on a gravestone that was the type that is flat on the ground.  I can't imagine how much anguish and anger the loved ones must have felt if they saw that when visiting their deceased relative.  The dog must have been allowed to run wild, and the owner didn't bother to clean up the mess the dog made.

    It has also done me no good, the majority of the time, to speak to store managers about this issue.  The only store that it made some difference was at a Staples office supply store in my area.

    I live in New Hampshire.  I have heard that this problem is even worse in the Mid-West. 

    I appreciate everyone's comments in favor of dogs not being brought into buildings, other than a pet store.  We do need to stay on this subject in this post, however, and not deviate to other issues, in order to unify and get something going here, so that we can do something about this out-of-control problem with dogs.  I am looking forward to hearing suggestions about how we stop this from happening.

     

  • Shea

    I think the first step would be talking to a lawyer who specializes in disability cases. 

  • Shea

    I think the first step would be talking to a lawyer who specializes in disability cases. Has anyone?

  • LAC
    Shea posted:

    I think the first step would be talking to a lawyer who specializes in disability cases. Has anyone?

    I am looking for an attorney who would be able to do a class action lawsuit. For class action lawsuits, attorneys usually get paid after the class action. For individual disability cases, people may need to pay up front. The other thing that we all need to do is try to strengthen the laws in our states pertaining to misrepresenting service dogs– or to get a law put on the books if there isn't one– as well as making it clear to store and business owners that they must accommodate people with dander-sensitive disabilities.

    What is the service dog law in your state, Shea?

  • MizWheezie

    OMG!!! 

    I thought I was the only one experiencing what I call "Service Animal Anxiety" – As many of you have stated, it's hard to even go shopping now, without having to duck and hide from dogs… And it's obvious that most of them are NOT even "service animals."

    I cannot believe how selfish people have become – It seems many pet owners think that EVERYONE should embrace and appreciate their animals, without any thought whatsoever that many people are extremely allergic to pet dander.

    I get the meanest looks from people when I back away from them and their dogs in the marketplace…

    I recently went to a car dealership to get my vehicle inspected, and there was this huge dog in the lobby – Everyone was oohing and ahhhing over the dog, while I stood there terrified that I was gonna have an asthma attack – When one of the customer service reps saw the look on my face, as I was backing away, she FINALLY asked: "Are you OK?" – I said, "No, I'm asthmatic and severely allergic to dogs"

    Everyone in the lobby turned and looked at me as though I was a two-headed monster!!!

    The owner walked off in a huff, and you could cut the tension in the room with a knife.

    Needless to say, I took care of the bill, and hurried out of there.

    Yes! – Sign me up, please – "People Before Pets!!!"

  • LindaL

    Thank you Mizwheezie.

    I share your pain and dismay at the lack of compassion you experienced.

  • Marie E Natzke

    I live in Chicago Illinois I do not know what the law states. I have seen signs up in store Windows service animal only. Please let me know how you got in touch with a state senator or representative. 

  • Marie E Natzke

    I just sent an email to Senator Tammy Duckworth. For those of you who don't know her. She's a U.S. Army Veteran she lost both her legs in the Iraq War. she was a helicopter pilot.

    Hope she will respond.

  • LindaL

    Marie:

    My daughter found out who the state senator and representative for her town was and contacted them both.  The state representative for her town is different than the representative where I live, in another town, but in the same county.  I noticed you e-mailed a senator.  How very tragic that she lost both her legs in the Iraq War.  Perhaps she will be compassionate to your plight and ours.

  • Shea

    In 2015, Florida passed a law declaring the use of fake service animals a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail

    The problem is, the person can lie, and there is no safe legal way to challenge them. 

    "A restaurant can only remove a service animal if it is aggressive towards other patrons or if it has had an accident, said business attorney Michelle Suarez, a partner at Odroniec Suarez in Fort Lauderdale." (From )

    No store that I've seen accommodates people with dander allergies– not even my allergist office or a hospital (unless your in a specialized isolation room). They have dogs in libraries, nursing homes, even jails have pet therapies now. Some college dorms can be protected by law to be reserved for people with dander allergies — that is all I have found. i have also read that store owners cannot deny a service animal and use allergies or fear of dogs as a valid reason. That really angers me. 

     

     

  • Shea

    Yes I do live in Florida. And people are pet-crazy here– lots of elderly retirees away from kids and family living alone with pets– lots of young college girls scared living alone "needing" their pets by their side like a kud with a stuffed animal. Also lots of childless people who treat their pets like kids and expect you to. They are everywhere all year long. 

  • LindaL

    Shea:

    I agree.  You hit the nail on the head.  In fact, if they go to therapists, I have heard that therapists recommend dogs and pets to people who are alone, to cheer them up, rather than encouraging the person to make connections to people.

  • LAC

    I will provide some ideas below on getting started with local advocacy in your state, based upon what I am in the process of doing.

    Locations of our thread followers so far and laws in those states:

    New Hampshire (2) = Misdemeanor to misrepresent a service dog

    Florida = 2nd Degree misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail

    Illinois = ?

    Connecticut = ?

     

    To find out the most up to date information about your state's statute on service dogs, go to your state's official website and look for their link to state laws, rules and statutes. You could also search on the official site for laws and statutes pertaining to service dogs and misrepresentation of service dogs. Find out if your state has it's own legal library and call and ask the law librarian to email you the full statute.

    There are also websites that list statutes of service animal laws by state, but those statutes may not be the most up to date. JUSTIA seems to be a good source.

    To get started with advocacy in your state, search on Google, or on your state's official website, for who your state representatives are for your district. Each town and city has different districts, so you have to find the representative/s that represent your town or your city neighborhood. You could call your town offices or city hall to find out the name of your reps.

    Email your rep and follow up with a request for a phone call. Ask for a face to face meeting with him or her. Stay focused on the following:

    1. Overview of the problem of pets and fake "service animals" being brought into public buildings/Epidemic of people misrepresenting service dogs.

    2. Clarify the ADA law and state law for the rep on both service animals and on asthma and life-threatening allergies being covered under the ADA (i.e., that "emotional support" pets are not service dogs under the ADA; that public domains must make "reasonable accommodations" for you if you have a documented dander-sensitive disability that impacts breathing and/or is life-threatening).

    3. Explain how this problem negatively impacts you, your family and others with dander-sensitive disabilities.

    4. Provide education about pet dander and about asthma, allergies and anaphylaxis. Be specific about your condition or your family members' conditions. Clarify that it is dander, a protein in the saliva, hair follicles, urine and feces of the animal, not fur or hair itself, that triggers asthma and allergies. Explain that dander permeates the air and contaminates all porous surfaces in a building exposed to the dander once the animal leaves, so it is not sufficient to just move people away from a dog or wait until a dog leaves the building. Stay on-topic and focus on what is relevant to the issue at hand, otherwise the rep will tune you out and think you "just hate dogs".

    5. Ask the rep to introduce a bill that will strengthen service dog misrepresentation laws and that will strengthen your rights as a dander-disabled person under the ADA. The bill should require education and penalties if business owners refuse to "reasonably accommodate" people with dander-sensitive disabilities. Ask that the law "empower" store and business owners to kick out pets and emotional support animals from their buildings and stores. Ask that it be made illegal to call a store "pet friendly" (due to our ADA rights) unless it is a pet store or animal-focused store.

    6. Offer to testify or provide written testimony for public comment if a bill is introduced. This is a must if the bill is to be passed. The rep is unlikely to sponsor the bill if you are not willing to testify or provide public comment.

    I have a written up a document with a resources and statistics. When you begin this process above and have a rep interested in helping, let me know and I will provide you with the info I have put together.

    Our second task is a class action law suit. Does anyone on here know any attorneys who do class action suits?

  • LAC
    LindaL posted:

    Laurie:

    Thank you for the excellent information.

     

    You are welcome, Mom. If you do this in your district, too, then your rep could join with my rep and it would strengthen our chances of getting a bill introduced.

  • Marie E Natzke

    Illinois violation of the Service Animal Access Act is a class c misdemeanor…means 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.

    the only times a service animal can be denied access if the animal fundamentally alters the goods services facilities accommodations of your business

    or if the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

    No I do not know if any attorney that does pro bono work. 

  • Shea

    I'd say we have enough evidence in studies and in medical experts to say that sevice animals DO fundamentally alter the goods, services, facilities, and accomodations of most indoor businesses AND pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others. 

    I am not really satisfied with doing all this for "no fake" service animals– it shouldnt be up to individuals to every time I see a dog wonder if it is service or a pet or emotional or a family-member-stand-in… Im allergic to them all just the same but certainly is worse with more in there.. Then what?– I complain that it looks like a pet– there arent ANY regulations on support animals, there is NO WAY to even see if a person is lying even if its obvious they are– you ask your 2 questions, they say yes, and yes, you have no rights to prod beyond that so why even pass stricter punishments when there is NO WAY to prove they are lying? 

    Providing accomodations for both people who need dogs and people who are allergic to their dander in one business is impossible. Its like providing smokers the right to smoke there legal product AND protect asthmatics and peoples lungs– n.o.p.e– they have to choose you cant have two buildings with the sane products right next to eachother both ac and same services– businesses cant do that. 

    I just think if more store owners would be given a choice to take a stand and say no service animals except in outdoors places that can be sectioned (kind of like with the smoking and non -smoking in restaurants) — they'd support clean air as well as people's rights and at least we would have SOME places (especially medical, education, and food places those are needs.)

  • LAC

    @Shea, Exactly. One of the purposes of getting the laws strengthened and enforced is to show store and business owners and managers that it is impossible to accommodate people with dander-sensitive disabilities if dogs are in their buildings/vehicles, etc–Like you said, stores and business owners would have to literally have two different stores with two inventories– So, the logical solution is for them to ban all pets and "emotional support" dogs. True service dogs are very rare and that situation would need to be figured out to the satisfaction of both sides, but we have to start by getting the 90% fakes/pets out of the public buildings/vehicles first.

    I also agree with you that even true service dogs "DO fundamentally alter the goods, services, facilities, and accommodations of most indoor businesses AND pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others", because they are contaminating all porous objects, products and surfaces with dander. However, we will get no where by targeting seeing eye dogs, etc. My worry is that more and more disabilities are being allowed to qualify for trained service dogs, and the "emotional support pet" lobby are probably really pushing to have "emotional support pets" considered "service dogs" under the ADA.

    I do think that robot technology has some promise in being able to replace service dogs, but I think that is quite a ways off into the future, and I doubt people will want to give up their dogs.

    We need relief and intervention NOW, and right now, we do have grounds for a class action suit to at least be considered, as store and business owners are breaking the law by allowing non-ADA protected pets into public places while the ADA rights of asthmatics and dander-allergic and anaphylactic people are being ignored and trampled. I also agree with you that allowing real service dogs such a wide range of rights does trample on ours. The law also offers little protection for the store and business owners and managers who want to get rid of all the dogs and pets coming into their buildings. These store and businesses owners are fearful of making a misjudgement about a real service dog and getting sued. The service dog laws need an overhaul for many reasons. The ADA has really put us in a bind with a contradictory law.

     

  • Shea

    Laurie I totally agree that our ADA rights are being trampled on and ignored and that non-ADA dogs in stores provides the bulk of the issue– I feel like the answer lies in lobbying for identification and regulation of true service dogs, as well as giving store owners a choice in denying all animals in their stores due to the new research on how dander alters the store and harms other humans. 

    We cant say, its ok for a blind person but not for a diabetic or a PTSD patient's disability… We can say– all dogs (or service monkeys peacocks cats and birds) are fundamentally altering our building and harming other humans with severe asthma and allergies, and they cant breathe, and their rights need to be protected too, so we have a special way for those with dogs to shop hete and that is in these outdoor areas or by placing this type of order. It is our decision as a store owner to decide if we can accomodate a disability reasonably and how. 

  • Shea

    I just want to add, I think that most people would agree that there needs to be stricter regulations on what is defined as a service animal (including possibly that alternative or mechanical options cannot be used instead and that emotional support animals do not need to be brought on a store but may be necessary to have at home). I think that they should have a proper identification AND that (like a license or anything else) store employees should be allowed to be check and validate them. That alone would provide a big relief in the number of dogs in public buildings.