Service animals are supposed to be allowed into all public places. This is so the adult or child who relies on assistance from a service animal is able to go where everyone else is allowed to be. A woman who was refused admission to a public event because of the guide dog she was training turned the experience into a teachable moment. This is how Coastie got his name.
There are a lot of adults, and many children, who require assistance from a service animal. Typically, this means that a person who is blind or visually impaired is walking around with the aid of a black or yellow Labrador dog. Guide dogs can also be used to help children who have autism and to prevent a child who has a severe allergy from coming in contact with that allergen.
As of March 2011, the official definition of “service animal” is “Any dog that is individually trained to do work or preform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition”.
Before a dog can assist an adult or child who has a disability or special need, the dog must be properly trained to do so. Stephanie Miller is someone who trains puppies to become competent guide dogs for others. Part of the training includes taking the puppy to public places. She took her current dog, Sunny, to the Sea-Blues festival in Clearwater, Florida.
Security at the event refused to let her and Sunny attend. Stephanie pointed out that animals in training get the same rights as certified guide dogs do. Unfortunately, this fact did not change the mind of the security at the festival.
Instead of getting upset, Stephanie Miller turned this into a teachable moment. She left a comment on the Facebook page for the City of Clearwater, and asked them to sponsor her next puppy in training. After taking the time to review Florida laws, city spokeswoman Joelle Castelli made an apology. The city paid $3,500 for the naming rights of Stephanie Miller’s next guide dog in training.
They selected the name “Coastie”. He is a yellow Labrador who will someday make a great guide dog for an adult or child who needs him. The name Coastie is in honor of the U.S. Coast Guard, and it also refers to the city’s designation as one of the nations fourteen Coast Guard cities.
Image by Sini Merikallio on Flickr