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South Colton store reaches agreement in complaint involving service dog

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CANTON — A complaint filed by a Colton man with the state Division of Human Rights claiming he was not allowed to bring his service dog into a local store has been settled with a sign.

Jon C. Sabin filed the complaint May 15 against Boyce’s General Store and Ed Boyce, claiming he was not allowed to bring his service dog into the store.

Mr. Sabin says he is a “severe” epileptic and a cardiac patient whose dog can alert him to oncoming seizures.

The agreement, signed by Mr. Boyce and Brenda Boyce on June 4 and by Mr. Sabin on June 9, was reached with a series of promises between the parties, including a sign that will be hung in the entrance of the store stating “Service Animals Welcome.”

Mr. Sabin’s attorney, Disability Rights New York senior staff attorney Simeon Goldman, said the incident that resulted in the complaint was one that could have resulted from simple confusion between state and federal laws.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires all places of public accommodation to permit service animals.

“Unfortunately in New York, under the human rights law, there is a very confusing definition of service animal that does not comport with the federal definition,” Mr. Goldman said.

According to the state law, a service dog is any dog that is trained by a recognized service dog training center or professional dog trainer and is actually used for such a purpose to perform specific tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.

“So people believe that an individual has to have some sort of certification, and what is funny is that it says, ‘recognized service dog training center,’” Mr. Goldman said. “New York state has no recognized service dog training center; there is no such thing. It doesn’t exist, and most small-business owners are not students of disability law and if they see that, they may just assume that is the law.”

As a part of the agreement, Mr. Sabin will be able to enter Boyce’s General Store with or without his service dog, and will be served in a manner similar to that of any other customer.

It stipulates that Mr. Sabin’s dog is not a pet and should not be touched without his consent; that he will keep his service dog under control when in the store; and, that employees of the store will receive an ADA fact sheet on service animals and will be informed of their obligation to permit service animals to accompany their owners into the store.

“I contacted Mr. Boyce and we had a meeting of the minds, and the bottom line was we were able to work this out. It is a positive so he gets to use and enjoy the only local grocery store that he is able to use,” Mr. Goldman said. “This was just about Jon having access and Mr. Boyce being comfortable with it, and I give everybody credit.”

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