Friday, June 5

Guide dog access hits home

**Taken from an email I sent to an email list of guide dog users.**

Greetings. I saw this story on the local news this morning. I was
concerned about the quote from the Texas Hearing and Service Dogs organization since it seemed confusing to me, and was also left wondering if the woman's guide dog was acting up. There's no information on this or what the dog was doing that was so disruptive, but it is alluded to in the story. When the anchorman came back on, he said that the city supports the decision by Taco Bell's management. Good luck with that in court. Anyway, here's the article with some post comment afterward. Go to this address for the full article and other links, such as the original video of the

(If it helps guide dog access in the grater community, then I'm all for the suit, since I've encountered possible discrimination for entering a restaurant in a nearby town to Austin, and have heard of at least one other instance of possible discrimination in Austin proper.)


Woman with guide dog says civil rights were violated
6/2/2009 1:15 PM
By: Brandi Powell

Rusty, the leader dog.
Texas Hearing and Service Dogs says guide dogs have been helping
people with visual challenges ever since World War I, but those who
use them still face some challenges.

One Central Texas woman who uses what's called a "leader dog" said her
civil rights have been violated.

Though some people may not know, there are certain legal rights and
responsibilities of those who use guide dogs.

Copperas Cove resident Nanette Ballou relies on her leader dog, Rusty,
to help her get around.

Ballou said she has very limited vision so her guide dog's always by her side.

Ballou said she and Rusty have had trouble at some establishments and
said it was no different on May 7.

"[We] went to Taco Bell with my daughter and two grandchildren,"
Ballou said. "Got dinner sat down to eat it. Manager came out. She
asked me if the dog was a seeing eye dog. And of course, my dog is a
leader dog."

A leader dog is a guide dog, just trained at a different school.

"At the end of our discussion, she told me she was going to call the
cops, and I invited her to do so," Ballou said.

Copperas Cove resident Nanette Ballou.
Ballou said when the Copperas Cove Police arrived, "They just walked
over and said, 'Lady, you and the dog gotta leave.'"

Ballou went on to say, "And so I argued with him adamantly, and when I
could see that this man wasn't going anywhere with my comments, I
finally said, 'Here's the law book, do you want to read it?' He

Ballou said one of the officers did eventually read her law book.

Ballou showed News 8 the harness that identifies Rusty as a certified
guide dog, and the identification card that identifies them as a team.

Texas Hearing and Service Dogs said this is not required by law, but
that's why the organization's big goal is education.

"But no matter what kind of credentials any kind of professional dog
has, if it is misbehaving in public, if it's dirty, if it's
interfering with the goods and services that the business is
providing, then no matter what kind of credential it has, it shouldn't
be allowed there," President of Texas Hearing and Service Dogs Sheri
Soltes said.

Ballou said that wasn't the case with her.

"It's very typical that law enforcement is not notified about it
because it is not a law that comes up a lot in their day-to-day
activities," Soltes said.

But, Ballou said she feels her civil rights were violated by Taco Bell
and the City of Copperas Cove.

So she said she is going to sue them both, on the state and federal level.

"The government needs to be involved with this sort of thing because
it does happen around the country," she said.

Ballou said she's already filed a complaint with the Texas ACLU.
She said she's been told the city attorney is not going to pursue any
charges against Taco Bell.

The city has not returned News 8's call to confirm.

The Copperas Cove Police Department also did not return News 8's call
asking for comment.

For more information on rights and responsibilities of guide dog
users, log onto
or call (877) TEX-DOGS.

Taco Bell's Response

"Taco Bell welcomes all customers into our restaurants, including
those with disabilities. This includes customers who require the use
of service animals, and from time to time, we have a customer who is
accompanied by a service animal into the restaurant. Our managers are
instructed to accommodate our customers' needs for a service animal.

In this particular case, the customer's need for a service animal was
not readily apparent, and out of concern for our other patrons, our
store manager asked the customer to provide some confirmation that the
dog was a service animal. Because the disturbance continued even after
the Copperas Cove police arrived, the police officers asked the
customer to leave and eventually escorted her from the premises. We
regret that this disturbance occurred, but Taco Bell firmly believes
that our manager acted reasonably in this situation."

Don Barton
Austaco, Taco Bell Franchisee

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