“I was told he wasn’t a service dog:” Woman advocating for people with service animals, following incident at business

SALISBURY, Md.- One woman is sharing her story after she had a bad experience bringing her service dog to a local business, and now she’s using that experience to educate the public.

“When you have the means to keep yourself somewhat grounded and you’re basically denied and you’re reminded and you’re knocked down again for having a disability it’s disheartening,” Heather Shellenberger, a service animal owner, said.

If you see Heather Shellenberger, you are guaranteed to see her dog Spence with her. That’s because she was diagnosed with PTSD and panic disorder following a traumatic incident at work.

“He was trained to alert me when I have an onset of a panic attack and then if I already get into a panic attack his task is to bring me out of it,” Shellenberger said.

This past Sunday Heather said she and her family went to visit Adkins Farm Market with Spence by her side. She said when she got there she was told dogs weren’t allowed by the market. In response, Heather said Spence was her service dog.

“When that encounter came out it completely escalated, I was told he wasn’t a service dog,” Shellenberger said.

Heather said she offered to show documentation and a service identification card for Spence, plus a copy of the Americans with Disabilities Act rules that she had on hand.

“In addition, to the prescription, I offered the card, which was declined and it just escalated into a cape, she meant a vest, which he’s not obligated to do so,” Shellenberger said.

Executive Director of Salisbury’s US Kennels, Chris Hardy, said in accordance with the ADA a business can only ask a person with a service animal two questions, the animal’s purpose and its task.

“What’s the purpose of the dog, well he’s my PTSD dog or seizure or whatever purpose of the dog would be, and a task would be the task that it would perform,” Hardy said.

Hardy adds that service dogs are not required to wear a vest.

“They don’t really have to wear any ID, you don’t have to wear a service dog vest, patched ID cards,” Hardy said.

“The business that you’re going into actually can not ask you for identification,” Hardy adds.

We are told unfortunately incidents like this happen way too often that’s why Heather said it’s important that people are educated on ADA rules.

“By no means do I want to tear this business down, I’m hoping this can be a learning situation for them,” Shellenberger said.

“To find more information on rules and regulations to ADA.gov.

We did reach out to Adkins Farm Market and they did not want to comment.

Categories: Local News, Maryland