On July 10th, Sydney Corcoran was asked to leave her local T.J. Maxx because of her service dog. The retail chain has issued a formal apology for the actions of that branch’s manager, but apology or no, the damage has already been done.
The Service Dog's Origin
A survivor of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, Sydney sustained multiple shrapnel wounds that day and has been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) ever since. For her, the service dog she was given -- named Koda -- has been her saving grace.
"It's knowing that I have this little support system that's all my own. He's my little cheerleader," Sydney said to ABC 5 News. "Honestly, I sleep better now. I used to have a really hard time trying to sleep because my mind would always just be going in overdrive."
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The T.J. Maxx Incident
Because Koda is such an integral part of Sydney’s life, when she was told to leave the store because of him, it hit her especially hard. And it wasn't like the manager was unaware of Koda's role as a service dog.
"He had on his service dog vest -- bright blue, says 'service dog' all over it,” Sydney said. “The store manager came over to me and said to me, 'If you want to keep your dog in the store, you have to put him in the carriage.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 made it illegal for any establishment to refuse service to a customer based on the pretense that they are in possession of a service animal, or request that anything be done with the dog that might inhibit their ability to serve. That being true, the manager of this TJ Maxx was in direct violation of Sydney’s rights.
TJ Maxx has formally apologized on behalf of the store manager, stating that they are deeply remorseful for their actions and will work hard to ensure that nothing like this ever happens in any of their establishments in the future. And while TJ Maxx has promised to be more aware of the importance of a service dog, this case is just a symptom of the bigger problem.
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The Big Picture
All across the globe, there exists an overriding misconception about the importance of service dogs to those they are serving. We would never dream of asking an injured vet to check his prosthetic leg at the door, but should he be accompanied by a German Shepherd, it’s all “no dogs allowed.”
In order to enact a change, we need to stop viewing service dogs as pets and start seeing them as the ambulatory and emotional aids they are. Why not start today?
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