t me begin with the disclaimer that I don’t claim to be an expert on the Americans With Disabilities Act, and I recognize that it is intended to pursue very worthy societal goals. But in the interest of providing you, my loyal readers, with some lighter fare this month (it is summer, after all), I couldn’t resist sharing with you the story of the Seattle shopkeeper and her “emotionally dependent” customer. My source for this story is the Seattle Times, by way of Overlawyered.com.
It seems that a customer entered a consignment clothing shop with a small, shaggy dog. The shopkeeper informed the customer that dogs were not allowed in the store, for the logical reason that dog dander and expensive, consigned clothing are not a good combination for the shopkeeper. As it turns out, however, the customer had a reason for wanting to bring the dog into the shop. At this point I must quote from the Seattle Times story:
‘[The customer] became very upset,’ said [the shopkeeper]. ‘She said, `Well, this dog can go anywhere, and you are going to hear from my attorney.’
Within days, [the shopkeeper] received a letter from the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR). She had been charged with unfair public-accommodation practices for denying [the customer] service.…. The [customer’s] psychologist said the dog is a mental-health-service animal that ‘has been privately trained to assist… with cognitive disorientation and confusion. She is also trained to bring [the customer] to full alertness when she suffers from the symptoms of narcolepsy….’
The shopkeeper’s protest that she had no way of knowing of the dog’s special function and training (and the lack of explanation by the customer) apparently did not persuade the Seattle Office for Civil Rights that her offense should go unpunished. The shopkeeper was ordered to pay the customer $250 and undergo “sensitivity training.”
The moral of the story? If a customer says that her dog is a service animal, you had probably better let her bring the dog in your shop, even if she shows no sign of any disability.