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Service dogs and the public: Do you know your rights?

Here's one of the most common misconceptions about service dogs.

CLEVELAND — A service dog is not a pet. Unfortunately, some people might confuse the two. 

Melissa Moyers has firsthand experience with the danger of this misconception since her service dog, Angela, has been in her life for years.

“She always has her service dog leash on her,” Moyers said. “She helps me with anxiety, because I have really bad anxiety and my depth vision isn't really good either. I can fall easily because I also have arthritis in my toe.”

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According to Moyers’ doctor, Angela is necessary, and she carries around the documentation to prove it.

She said she still runs into issues sometimes with people not knowing or following the law.

One issue took place at a store inside Chapel Hill Mall, where Moyers was told her dog couldn’t come in with her.

Moyers said those situations don’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s upsetting.

“It makes me feel hurt because I really can't go without her.”

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, a service dog is not a pet, it’s a working animal trained to perform tasks or work that supports a person with a disability.

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Businesses are allowed to ask if a service animal is required because of a disability and what type of work the dog is trained to do, but they cannot ask about a person’s disabilities.

Under Title III, “state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.”

Moyers’ friend, Chad Higgins, said not everyone abides by those rules.

“I know that Angela is not my dog, but as a friend, I want to jump in and help out."

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For now, they’re both working to change the perception and recognition of service dog laws.

“I just want people to know that they are not alone,” Moyers said. “Service dogs come in all shapes, all different sizes, different reasons for them.”

In order to protect her rights and answer questions about the public’s rights, Moyers chooses to hand out ADA cards.

Click on this link for FAQ surrounding service dog laws.

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