JUL 3 1997 The Honorable Vernon J. Ehlers Member, U.S.

House of Representatives 166 Federal Building Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503 Dear Congressman Ehlers: This letter is in response to your inquiry on behalf of your constituent, XXX , regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). XXX is training a service dog for his son and is concerned that the dog has been prohibited from certain facilities, including his place of employment. XXX suggests that service animals in training who are accompanied by their trainer should be allowed the same privileges as service animals who are accompanied by people with disabilities. Please excuse our delay in responding. Section 36.302 of the Department of Justice regulation implementing title III of the ADA states that a public accommodation must modify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability. The ADA does not specifically require such modifications for persons who are training service animals. Thus, the facilities that have barred XXX from entering with his service dog-in-training have not violated the ADA. I hope this information is useful to you in responding to your constituent. Sincerely, Isabelle Katz Pinzler Acting Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division cc: Records, Chrono, Wodatch, McDowney, O'Brien, FOIA H:\nmilton\myfiles\congress\f-svc_an.ehl\sc. Young-parran APR 10 1997 XXX Grand Rapids, MI 49503-1117

April 8, 1997 Congressman Vern Ehlers 166 Federal Building 100 Michigan NW Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Hon. Mr. Ehlers: I am becoming increasingly frustrated with a select but important group of people. Although my contact is local, I am sure there are persons of this group across the nation. My son was born with myotonic muscular dystrophy. He is expected to be in a wheelchair most, if not all, of his life. The very day he was born, when I was told of his diagnosis, I immediately called Paws with a Cause to register him for a service dog, expecting that there would be a long waiting list. My thought was that he could grow old enough to be able to utilize a service dog while his name worked its way up the waiting list. The Paws representative indicated that the waiting list was not near as long as I expected and that I should call again when he reached the age of two years old. When he reached the age of two, I called again, only to be told he should have been placed on the waiting list when he was born. I have occasional contact with a few Paws trainers and discussed my son with them. I also discussed some of the ideas I have in using new technologies (I am experienced in computer technologies) to help disabled persons with commanding their dogs through computer technology when they have vocal impairments. Since I have limited experience with dog training, and since the trainers were excited about my concepts, they instructed me in the proper training techniques for the first two years with the dog in preparation for service work. One of the most important elements of the training rigor was told to me as, "Take the dog everywhere with you." I thought they meant to be sure the dog was exposed to every experience I could provide, and brought the dog to many places, but not with me at all times. A few months later, when a trainer saw me at work, he asked where the dog was. I told him she was at home and he explained to me that he meant that she should be with me at all times, as if I were the person needing the assistance. That way, if the dog decided to do something inappropriate (like beg from another person, for example), I, as an able bodied person, could provide the proper instruction and take corrective action. (It would be difficult for a wheelchair bound person to do that.)

I explained the situation to my manager at work, the director at the store where I shop, my school, and even to GRATA (I did not have a car at the time). All agreed to allow 1 the dog to act as my assistant, understanding that (a) I did not have facilities like that of Paws to use, (b) I could not "work" at training the dog, but had to continue my employment, and (c) that it was important for the dog to be exposed to these environments during her formative years. Progress with the training has been good for nearly 18 months. However, my manager's supervisor was told about the dog's attendance with me at work and informed my manager that I was not to bring her if I wished to continue to be employed. (Two facts are important to understand here. First, the dog behaved perfectly for 18 months already without incident and showed no reason to anticipate any trouble. Secondly, my work performance has been such that I have always placed in the top 20% of the performance ranking of part time sales associates, usually one of the "top five," so there is no doubt that my work performance may have negatively influenced their decision.) Since Coco (the dog) has not been allowed to accompany me to work, her advancement in training has literally halted. Since I have not been able to "work" her during the hours I am at work, she has not been able to learn new skills. The time I can afford to spend with her has been consumed with maintaining social skills. Occasionally, I am confronted by persons such as security officers at shopping malls or public arenas. When they inform me that "pets" are not allowed, I explain why she is harnessed and with me. Until today, that has been sufficient explanation for the person requesting that I leave. More on today later... A few weeks ago, while at the Kent County Health Department for an appointment with a Michigan Special Health Services nurse with my son (yes Coco was with me), I asked both the caseworker and the nurse if there was any state or federal forms I should file to "register" Coco as a service dog or service dog in training. They checked with others in the office, but could find no such registration. Since my employer has forced me to curtail training to the point of no progress, my wife has also contacted Senator Glen Steil's office, your office, and countless other offices in Lansing and Washington to try to find some way out of this "Catch 22," where Coco would be allowed under the ADA if she were fully trained, but not allowed to be trained. For example, even if I were to fully train her on the proper handling of the wheelchair, doors, and buttons, could you not imagine her fear the

first time she had to ride a city bus lift if she had not practiced it with "able bodied" supervision? Today, I was refused entry into the State of Michigan building downtown to register my automobile plates. The security guard and the building manager refused to allow my admittance to the building because I was not the disabled person. Their excuse was that "other dog trainers" would want to "socialize" their dogs in the building. (Socialization is part of a show dog's training as well.) Even though I happened to have documentation about my son's disability with me, they would not allow me in the building to conduct business with the Secretary of State. The guard told me I should build "facilities" to do the training on my own property. I think it is great that organizations like Paws with a Cause can build facilities to train service dogs in simulated "real world" locations. I also think it is great that they can hire professional trainers to spend time with the animals. (Trainers also take the animals home with them, by the way.) Unfortunately, there is more demand than they can fill for service dogs. 2 With reasonable accommodation, I have been able to make substantial progress in training a service animal for my own son. Coco's presence with me these past 18 months has not been any more than a slight, pleasant distraction where ever I have gone. In addition to the substantial progress I have been able to make toward providing a service dog for my son, I have been able to further the education of the public in proper etiquette toward a service dog (ignore it, do not pet it, please). The intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to make it possible for service dogs to assist their charges and to prevent discrimination against the disabled by those who would refuse the animal's entrance in public places. It is also the intent of the Family Leave Act to allow reasonable accommodation to a parent in the provision of needs to his family. It is virtually impossible to purchase a service dog or the training of a dog to become a service dog. (I have tried!) This is the first time I have ever been confronted with the inability to provide an important benefit for a member of my family simply because a small number of key persons refused to allow a reasonable accommodation. All they need to do is allow the dog to accompany me. This does not reduce my effectiveness as an employee or disrupt the environment around me in any way. Virtually everyone I meet finds my persistence in this task admirable and honorable. Many even wish to offer assistance when it would be counter to the dog's training (she should hold the door for me, not be allowed passage with a human holding the door!). The unreasonable persons which cause most of my problems in this endeavor refer

back to "the ADA doesn't force us to allow entry to a dog in training." After months of searching, I am confident that there is no law that does address the training of service animals. Therefore, after having all of this trouble and suffering the harassment and discrimination of a certain few, I am convinced that there needs to be just such a law. I am not suggesting that a law be as vague as to allow anyone to claim that they are "training a service dog." Instead, the law should allow service animals in training accompanied by their trainer in the same way as a service animal accompanied by a disabled person. The trainer should be required to be registered as an employee of a bona fide service animal training organization (such as Paws with a Cause) or the registered trainer of a service animal intended for an immediate family member who is totally and permanently disabled (the Social Security Administration makes such determinations already) or otherwise deemed to be a candidate for placement of a service animal by a bona fide service animal training facility. I feel that it is important that any person be able to assist their own family members. I understand the need to restrict animals from access to many public areas for health reasons or to protect the public from aggressive animals. However, for a person who can document the presence of a family member who is totally and permanently disabled, the government should not stand in the way of that person's attempt to provide for that disabled family member in any reasonable way possible. To provide that balance, the trainer could simply be required to publicly register his or her intent to train the dog and receive some sort of paperwork (identification card, perhaps?) to identify the animal and trainer as "registered service animal in training" and naming the trainer. 3 Really, I do not understand why, in a non-health related building like the State of Michigan offices, a security guard would be so adamant that a well behaved dog should be expelled. Why did he assume I was not disabled? He did not see me drive. In fact, many legally blind persons do not appear to be so. I was even wearing shaded glasses at the time. We need to "plug this hole" in the ADA and allow more training of service animals. I can not be alone in this situation. I look forward to hearing from you. I would also be very happy to meet with you, introduce you to Coco, and if you wish, my son Tom as well. I would also be willing to speak on behalf of this issue as required. You see, I am one of those parents who is willing to "do whatever it takes" for his offspring. Sincerely, XXX 4