Military wife upset about service dog treatment

Posted at 6:50 PM, Mar 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-24 14:20:30-04

Cookie is a service dog for 2-year-old Leo Smith who has cystic fibrosis. 

"She is the sweetest, most loving dog you'll ever meet."

Leo's mom took her kids and the Boston terrier puppy to Naval Medical Center San Diego Monday.

"From the moment we walked through the doors, we were treated with hostility and disrespect,” Fontana Smith told 10News. “They were very rude, didn't want to listen to what I had to say about ADA and regulations. They went against about every regulations ADA has for service dogs."

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act specifies that service animals are not pets. The task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability.

Office staff may ask two questions:
(1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
(2) What task has the dog been trained to perform?

Beyond that, the ADA regulations state that staff cannot ask about the person's disability, require medical documentation, require a special ID card or documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the task.

Smith, whose husband is active duty Navy on a carrier, said the day got worse.

"At the end we had to sit on a dirty floor with two sick children before we could be seen by a doctor."

She contacted 10News and complained to the Navy.       

"They did apologize; they did say they'd implement training," Smith said.

The executive officer at the hospital, Capt. Cynthia Kuehner, said steps have already been taken.  "I can absolutely tell you the people directly involved at our clinics have taken positive steps to ensure that appropriate training, that knowledge of our policies is conveyed to our staff members."