‘You can’t bring your dog in here’. ‘We don’t allow dogs, sorry’. ‘Can the dog wait outside?’
In 2 restaurants, a shop and even the hospital, Don and I have encountered these kind of comments and questions. Since january 2016, it’s against the law to refuse a service dog entry into a public place. However it seems as though not everyone is familiar with the law.
Even I had to ask questions about it when Don first came to me. Where can he go? Are there places he isn’t allowed? And how do I prove he’s really a service dog?
I was informed that he can go anywhere except for Intensive Care and the operating theater in a hospital. What’s more interesting, is as long as it’s safe and he behaves, he doesn’t have to be on a leash.
However, because I tend to put his and other people’s safety and well being first, there are other places I choose not to take him. We don’t go anywhere where there are wild animals running free. So visits to the Oostvaardersplassen for example, don’t happen. Don also doesn’t get to go to any concerts, theater shows or movies. Music is already loud and for a dog, it’s ten times louder. It would hurt his ears and make him very uncomfortable. I also make concessions in a restaurant with an open kitchen. Though it’s illegal for the dog to be refused entry, I do ask to be seated as far as possible from the kitchen. I’m also considerate when deciding whether or not to take him off leash. Outside, if it’s not a place where dogs are allowed to be free, Don also stays leashed. Inside depends on where we are. I keep him leashed in shops, most restaurants and in waiting rooms at the doctor or hospital. There’s 2 places in the village where we go often to eat. There I remove the leash. They’re reasonably quiet places which we know well. He stays next to me while I eat and follows me when I move. The same goes for the community center where my Mom lives. Our local Beter Horen has also become our second home. He walks around that shop off leash too. In the hospital or at the doctor, he doesn’t get to go off leash until I’m in the room where my appointment takes place and the door is closed. Then he’s asked to lay down and wait. He’s not allowed to walk freely around a treatment room.
It’s very important to show that you’re a responsible, in control handler. It’s good to show respect for the people around you. I carry a pass which I can use at any time to prove he’s a registered service dog and when we go to a medical appointment or the airport, I always carry his medical passport so I can show his vaccines are up to date if asked.
Being confronted with statements and questions that indicate my dog isn’t welcome is something I personally find hurtful and disrespectful. I do everything to respect those around me. So I appreciate it when I also feel respected. My dog is an extension of me. He ensures I can be as independent as possible despite my disability. So I feel that if my dog is refused, I am refused because I have a disability. I believe that no one in the disabled community should ever feel like they’re worth less due to limitations. That’s descrimination.
Luckily I’m good at turning difficult experiences into something positive. I know my rights and each time we’re refused access, I actually feel more confident about who I am.
Most of the situations I’ve been in were easily solved by calmly explaining that Don is a service dog, or by showing my pass. If that doesn’t work and you still end up having to leave, you can do one or more of the following things.
- Report it to management or head office of the place you were refused access.
- Report it to the school where your dog was trained. They like to be aware of this information and can give you advice on how best to resolve the situation.
- Report it to your local municipality. They give permits to the local shops and restaurants and can help make owners aware of the law.
- Submit a report to Stichting Gebruikers Assistentiehonden. Here they conduct campaings to ensure everyone is aware of the law and often have conversations about it with large companies.
- File a report at the College voor de Rechten van de Mens. Here they gather data about the type and frquency of refusals. Do research to see if refusals really are against the law and give advice about descrimination which, in 80% of cases is re-enforced by a judge.
Though it can be tiring and even upsetting to have to go through these steps, it’s very important to do so. The more people made aware that refusals happen, the quicker and more effeciently the law can be enforced. More importantly, remember you don’t have to deal with it alone. Go to a friend, family member or an organisation that can help and support you while filing your reports. Stand up for your rights. You’re a person too!