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Monday, August 12, 2013

Tara Palmeri on Service Dogs: Misleading and Problematic


Tara Palmeri is at it again. A second article on service dog abuse appeared in the NY Post today. As with Palmeri's previous article I lambasted, she does not let factual information interfere with a catchy headline and objectionable photograph above. Palmeri  wrote she "borrowed my mom’s wacky golden retriever/poodle mix “Hampton’’ for a day to check out The Post’s recent report that dog lovers are decking out their pooches with phony vests and fake ID tags to get them into fancy restaurants and shops. The first stop for our party of five — Hampton and four human pals willing to lie for him — was Orsay on Lexington Avenue.Hampton — showing off his phony “service dog’’ patch we had specially embroidered — happily slobbered as he wolfed down an 8-ounce salmon filet." The photograph and article has one intent: outrage readers. The dog owners that knowingly purchase fake service dog vests are not taken to task. Utterly ignored is how bogus service animals affect the experience of people with a disability who form a service dog team. The fact is people with a disability that use a service dog routinely encounter discrimination (this would make a great article). Where in Palmeri's estimation does fault lie?  The American with Disabilities Act is to blame! 

Palmeri mixes fact and fiction. There is a grain of truth in what she wrote. For example, at the restaurant she took the poorly behaved pet to the  "maitre d' couldn't ask because the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits businesses from demanding a canine's credentials. It also doesn't allow managers ask its human companion about their disability". This assessment is grossly misleading and the language utilized is of importance. First, the ADA was revised to address the problem of fake service dogs in 2011. The Department of Justice, tasked with enforcing the ADA, permits business owners to ask two questions of people that use service dogs. First, is the animal a service dog, and second, what is the service dog trained to do. Given this, a person that brings a fake service dog into any business establishment is a liar who has violated Federal Civil rights legislation. Palmeri is correct about one thing: business owners cannot ask a person about their disability. This would violate the ADA. A person's disability is not relevant--a point Palmeri completely missed. What is relevant? As already stated is the dog in question appropriately trained and what is it trained to do. This is all a business owner needs to know. What is of interest to me is the wording in the article. Palmeri thinks business owners can "demand" proof of a "canine's credentials". This is incorrect. No service dog owner is required to prove his animal is "credentialed". This idea, a service dog owner must carry documentation or papers, is false and illegal. More generally, does a business owner have the right to demand any information from a customer? The assumption here is that people with a disability are inherently unequal--that is a person without a disability can, when the whim strikes, ask invasive and inappropriate questions. This phenomenon is common--every person with a disability I have ever met is routinely asked inappropriate questions.  

I am disturbed by Palmeri's articles. First, anyone with even limited exposure to service dogs quickly observes the difference between a pet and a service dog is profound. A pet such as the one Palmeri borrowed behavior was grossly inappropriate. If a service dog acted like Palmeri's borrowed pet did it would be immediately corrected and removed from the establishment. What Palmeri is relying on is ignorance. The general public and businesses large and small do not care about the ADA. The ADA is a burden, Federal legislation that must be complied with. The civil rights of people with a disability are always somehow different. This sort of dehumanization process plays a prominent role in Palmer's article. She leads the reader to an erroneous if not illegal conclusion: any person, especially business owners, can at any time "demand" a service dog "credentials". The fault is not with able bodied pet owners that lie but with the ADA. Sadly, the glib headlines and photograph will do much harm. I suspect guide teams will face increased scrutiny and discrimination when they try and have an ordinary day. But if I have learned one thing in the last 35 plus years of using a wheelchair it is that the ordinary is illusive for people with a visible disability.        

12 comments:

Jo Kelly said...

Bill you should send this in to the NYT as a letter to the editor! They may/may not print it but at least you are trying to get the correct info out there. Who is this Palmeri chic anyway? She needs a good talking to.

william Peace said...

Jo, For years I have sent good quality short essay to the NYT. Never got close to publication. The NYT does not acknowledge disability rights and civil rights are one in the same. Palmeri as near as I can tell was a reporter in Washington DC and moved to NY where she got a job as a gossip reporter for the Post. I am guessing in penning multiple articles against people with a disability and the ADA she thinks she can make a name for herself. This is speculation however.

Matt Stafford said...

I'm not sure she's capable of thinking that far judging by the amount of thought in her latest tirade.

Doug Kuiphoff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug Kuiphoff said...

We ran into this ourselves three Sundays ago. Our oldest son has an assistance dog provided by Paws with a Cause, a nationally recognized, Michigan-based service dog organization. A Michigan zoo would not permit our son's clearly vested service dog to enter unless we first provided extensive proof of its certification and health records, both of which are illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act. To make matters worse, their policy (of which we have a copy) would have required that our dog be left in our vehicle on that 80+ degree day, so we returned our home without entering the zoo.

That same evening I had a Facebook group up and running, and contacted local media, and emailed my state legislators. The next morning the media were at our home to interview us about our experience at the zoo, and an hour or so later they were at the zoo filming footage for the report and interviewing zoo's veterinarian. The security guard (a great guy!) with whom I spoke during the incident, who is also the parent of a special needs child, told me that the zoo had engaged in this practice for years, keeping many special needs families out of the zoo. However, when the media showed up to cover the situation, the zoo's managing board realized just how much trouble they were potentially going to be in, and had the vet offer a taped, on the air apology to our family as well as an invitation to return to the zoo - with our assistance dog. 30 minutes before the report was scheduled to air I also received a phone call from the zoo's director, who also offered an apology, an invitation to return to the zoo, and assured me that the zoo's attorneys would be changing the policy to bring in line with the ADA.

I want to make it clear that I do not hold the zoo's employees and security guard responsible for what happened; they were merely enforcing a very clearly worded and written policy. I will not fault them for doing their jobs. The zoo has been engaging in this practice since at least 2006; I was simply the first person who is willing to take this kind of action to get the policy changed. We are planning on returning to the zoo next week to complete what would have been our son's birthday visit.

william Peace said...

Doug your experience perfectly illustrates just how inherently destructive Palmeri's article is. I can only reiterate the article that needs to be written is about discrimination and not liars who buy service dog phony vests

Glee said...

I agree Bill. but Dave Hingsburger got a little "ordinary" today :)

http://davehingsburger.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/ordinary.html

william Peace said...

Those ordinary days are all too rare. Dave's blog is great. Having spent much time in Ontario my experiences reflect his. And I love Canadian Tire. I have not had a negative experience there. HR must be very good.

Middle Child said...

What is the flaw in too many who seek to make harder the lives of those who are already up against it.

Catherine said...

I am just shaking my head that someone would consider this a venue of great abuse. Yes, I'm sure it is abused. Everything and anything is, but in magnitude, it's hardly a big sham to have to shut down. So many other things happening that are far more outrageous and happening more.

I so rarely see service dogs, so that even if half of them are fake, it's a grain of sand on the beach in terms of abuses, and I'm in NYC a lot. When an abuse starts because so pervasive that it truly starts interfering with a lot of people, that is when it needs to be addressed. This is not a big enough problem to have to clamp down upon. I can't believe someone is going after these abuses that are so rare.

I can think of any number of cheating, stealing, lying that is going on rampant basis as compared the possibility that this is happening.

william Peace said...

Catherine,Service dogs or guide dogs are indeed rare. In the rare instance I have seen a guide dog team they stick out like a sore thumb. The team in question moves fluidly in a manner that it as obvious as it is impressive. To suggest service dogs are a rampant problem is misleading and in this case framed within anti ADA rhetoric.

jamesphumphrey said...

This is not the first time that Tara has written an article that may have caused harm to people with disabilities. Tara's May 14th article entitled "Rich Manhattan Moms Hire Handicapped Tour Guides so kids can cut lines at disney world" reads like a Stephen Glass article, but has been cited by some as the impetus behind Disney's decision to eliminate the GAC system that helped so many families dealing with disabilities. Sad that millions of people with disabilities must suffer so that one person can build a career and sell newspapers.