Guide dog CEO offers Langley airpark staff training

A guide dog training organization reached out to a Langley business after a service dog incident.

A group that trains service dogs will be doing some human training after an incident in which a Maple Ridge woman said her autistic brother’s dog was refused access to a Langley business.

On Jan. 2, Danica Dutt took her 11-year-old brother, Kai Chand, to Extreme Air Experience in Walnut Grove.

“Before my brother could begin to even jump one of the staff told us the service dog was denied access because she was not needed’,” Dutt posted on Facebook.

“I explained to her the dog has public access and showed her the paperwork, but she said there was nothing she could do. The owner of the company said the dog was not allowed to be there, and only service dogs who have a ‘purpose’ (i.e a seeing eye dog) would be permitted to enter. I had to stand and wait for 30 minutes with my 11-year-old autistic brother while the lady working discussed this on the phone with management.”

Dutt is irate because the business would not provide a refund, only a credit, and she denied that they wanted to take the dog onto the trampolines. Dutt said the plan was for her sit with the dog in the waiting area.

“Our intentions [in sharing this] are to raise awareness on the rights of service dogs who assist those with autism. Not all disabilities are visible, but all are valid,” she wrote in a Google review.

The CEO of BC and Alberta Guide Dogs said the owners of Extreme Air Experience called him back within minutes after the group offered training.

“I’m going to have a meeting with the owner and his staff,” said William Thornton, of BC and Alberta Guide Dogs.

The dog group will work with the North Langley company to create a code of conduct and policy regarding service animals.

Thornton said his group is contacted about a dozen each year about such incidents but they are usually resolved through education about the law and service animals.

“I think it’s appalling that it happens,” he said, noting most incidents involve restaurants.

Thornton added the experience is humiliating for the person with the service dog.

“Normally when we have a client who has a problem, they notify us straight away and we would deal with the proprietor straight away,” Thornton explained.

He said it can be a misunderstanding about what a service animal is allowed to do. In this instance, it was assumed the dog would be going on the recreation equipment such as trampolines, he said..

Dogs never do such things as go in pools or on recreation equipment but by law cannot be refused entry with their human to a facility or business that is open to the public, Thornton explained.

Another factor is that some establishments are concerned that the animals aren’t really certified. BC and Alberta Guide Dogs provides several businesses and organizations with a 24/7 phone number if they have questions about credentials.

New legislation will be tougher on those who refuse entry or access for a certified service animal.

Thornton noted that if a person with a certified service dog has their government-issued ID and are refused service or entry, the person can call the police.

Extreme Air Park provided an emailed statement to the Langley Advance, noting it had reached out to the family.

“Thank you for reaching out to us. Kai visited our facility yesterday and did in fact jump and enjoyed all the attractions in our park. His sister was offered a free admittance as is our policy with care providers, to assist Kai if needed. The incident arose from a dialogue about the dog going onto the trampoline area. Service dogs are welcome, and we do our best to address and accommodate all our customers needs including those requiring special care.”

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