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Deer Lake grandmother says service animal legislation and regulations need to be clarified

Autism service animal Abner is shown here with Maverick.
Autism service animal Abner is shown here with Maverick. - Contributed

Freedom of movement is a fundamental right that Janet Butt is concerned is being taken away from her grandson.

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Last Thursday the Deer Lake woman was at the Corner Brook Walmart with her 10-year-old grandson Maverick Butt and his service dog, Abner, when an employee asked what the dog was doing there.

Butt explained he was a service dog and was working. The explanation wasn’t enough for the employee who demanded the paperwork to show he was a legitimate service dog even though Abner was wearing a vest that identified him as such.

The discussion upset Maverick, who is on the autism spectrum, so much that Butt’s husband had to take him out of the store.

Butt feels the response she got from the store management that day was not adequate and said despite going public with her story, Walmart has made no efforts to contact her.

The company posted a response to her daughter, Shannon Butt’s, Facebook page. While it says service animals are permitted to enter Walmart stores as companions to customers with disabilities, and offered an apology, Butt said it did nothing to answer her questions and concerns about the incident with respect to policy and protocol.

“We don’t want to be going out and stopped every time someone wants to be demanding papers because they don’t accept the jacket,” she said.

She said it’s ridiculous and insulting that her grandson has got to be identified as disabled.

“When they start giving themselves the permission to be intolerant don’t talk inclusion to me.”

Butt said she plans to contact her MHA, Premier Dwight Ball, to voice her concerns and opinion that the legislation and regulations around service animals needs to be clarified.

“Because everybody wants the freedom of movement. To go about their lives free from being stopped,” she said.

The Service Animal Act says a person with a disability cannot be denied access to accommodation, services or facilities available in a place to which the public is customarily admitted or be discriminated against with respect to access to those for the reason that the person is accompanied by a service animal.

There are no training and qualifications prescribed by law for service animals in this province. The Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission says that in the absence of such regulations, there is no obligation to ensure that the animal has any specific qualifications.

Walmart Canada responded via email to a request for comment on this story with this statement:

Walmart Canada is committed to providing an accessible and dignified shopping experience for our customers with disabilities. Service and support animals are welcomed at all Walmart Canada stores.

In cases where the animal entering our store is not visibly recognizable as a service or support animal, our customers can expect that they may be asked to provide documentation confirming that the animal is a service or support animal.

In this situation, the service dog was wearing an identifiable service dog vest and there was no need to request further documentation.

We sincerely apologize to the customer and we will work to review the proper procedures with our associates.

Source: Walmart Canada, Corporate Communications

Weblinks

https://thinkhumanrights.ca/education-and-resources/guidelines/guidelines-regarding-the-use-of-service-animals/

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