Veterans with service dogs denied access, services

Airlines, taxis, restaurants and hotels are all offenders for denying access and services to veterans with service dogs, according to a new study. The news comes despite huge gains in understanding how much these dogs of war can transform a troubled life.

Courageous Companions, a Canadian organization that connects current and former members of the armed services suffering from conditions ranging from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder with service animals, released the disturbing report this week.

The group surveyed more than 300 service dog owners over 18 months who reported everything from lack of accessibility to refusal of service by businesses big and small.

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The worst offenders were airlines, which had trouble booking flights for veterans and dogs. That was followed by taxis, whose drivers complained of allergies or just didn’t want a dog in the cab. Restaurants, which said health and safety codes prevented the dog from entering, and grocery stores, which made the same claim, were also offenders. Finally, hotels made life with a service dog difficult by saying pets weren’t allowed or they charged an extra fee for the service animal.

The worst places to live with a service dog, based on the rate of issues arising:

  1. Calgary 90%
  2. Ottawa 80%
  3. Saskatoon 60%
  4. Brandon 59%
  5. Moncton 58%

The best cities to live with a service dog:

  1. Winnipeg 5%
  2. Toronto 30%
  3. Vancouver 32%
  4. Montreal 33%
  5. Quebec 34%

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David Howard, president of The Canadian Legacy Project, which supports Courageous Companions, says dogs save lives and need to be recognized in the same way guide dogs help blind people.

“Too many Canadian veterans have taken their own lives due to PTSD and the current military and veterans affairs have not endorsed a national service dogs program. Service dogs have been proven to enable our PTSD-afflicted veterans to reintegrate a quasi-normal life. However, the lack of knowledge have brought upon the service-dog owners an added burden when they are repeatedly denied access to various establishments. Those people are the very ones that have put their lives on the line to help maintain our freedoms and liberties we enjoy as Canadians, and maybe take for granted. Those deserving soldiers and their dogs should not have to be attacked on a daily basis due to sheer ignorance. Companies need to educate their staff so that the service dog teams are no longer being turned away. They are not breaking any laws, they simply want to enjoy their human rights.”

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George Leonard, founder of the Courageous Companions program, calls for more education of the public and business based on the eye-opening survey. But there are signs things are changing.

“I am greatly encouraged that the lives and acceptance of the human rights of our service dogs owners are improving due to our continuous work with government, industry leaders, and willing partners,” he said in a statement.

Photos MSAR/Facebook

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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