Woman Mulls Formal Complaint After London ER Turns Away Service Dog

Author of the article:Jennifer Bieman
Publishing date:Dec 12, 2022

A London woman is pushing for more public acceptance of service animals, particularly in hospitals, after an unkind reception to her dog by staff at a London emergency room.

Alyssa Harvey, a 25-year-old student at Western University, was angered by the way she says London Health Sciences Centre responded to her dog Bailey, a trained golden retriever she has had for three years to help her manage a disability.

Harvey said she was brought by professionals to the Victoria Hospital emergency room early Friday with her service dog. Staff at the emergency room immediately took issue with Bailey’s presence, she said.

“They were highly resistant from the start. When staff came to talk to me, they wouldn’t let me bring Bailey,” Harvey said in a text exchange Friday. “Someone had to stay with him in the triage area and they wouldn’t admit me until he left.”

Bailey was picked up from the hospital by Harvey’s friend and advocate Arbor Morris when she was admitted.

“They (hospital staff) were very resistant to him even entering the hospital. They voiced that they had a policy against him being in the hospital,” Morris said.

Harvey said she was also separated from Bailey when she was admitted to LHSC last year.

In a statement Sunday, LHSC officials said it strives to provide care and access to its facilities in a way that “respects the dignity and independence of all.”

“As per the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, persons with disabilities may be accompanied by their service animals to parts of LHSC’s premises that are open to the public and other third parties,” the hospital said in a statement.

“Where there is a need to exclude a service animal from part of the premises (e.g. for infection control reasons, sound associated with MRI), staff/affiliates will ensure other measures are available to enable the person with a disability to obtain, use and benefit from LHSC’s care and services.”

Service dogs can be used to help people with a wide variety of disabilities and conditions, from guide dogs for visually impaired people to seizure-detecting dogs and ones that help individuals manage mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

There is no single registry of service animals in Ontario, but there are specific requirements.

Service animals must be easily identifiable as linked to the owner’s disability, such as a guide dog wearing a vest or harness. The provincial rules also say an owner can provide documentation from a regulated health professional that the animal is required for their disability.

The list of regulated health professionals able to provide this documentation includes audiologists, speech-language pathologists, chiropractors, nurses, doctors, optometrists and psychologists, psychotherapists or mental health therapists.

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, service animals do not require certificates or ID cards but owners may be asked for documentation, such as a letter from a health professional or identification from the Ministry of the Attorney General for people who are visually impaired and use a guide dog.

Harvey said she keeps her doctor’s note, a note from Bailey’s training program and a copy of his vaccination record with her. Bailey wears a vest at all times when he’s on duty, she said.

Harvey is considering launching a formal complaint, adding the resistance to her service animal was “extremely frustrating” and made an already difficult emergency room visit even worse.

She said Bailey provides comfort and connection and is a deeply important part of her life.

“He gives me my independence back and he helps me so much in my day-to-day life to mitigate my disabilities,” she said. “He is like an extension of myself and our bond is so strong.”

jbieman@postmedia.com

Original at https://lfpress.com/news/local-news/woman-mulls-formal-complaint-after-london-er-turns-away-service-dog