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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Veteran Denied Dealership Vehicle Loaner Vehicle Because Of Service Dog

Car.Buying | article by Tom McParland | Dec 2014

One of the benefits of owning a luxury car is that when you take it in for service, often you get to drive a vehicle of the same brand and not have to wait. But when a disabled Army veteran brought his service dog to his Mercedes dealer, they said he couldn't drive a Benz with his companion.

According to Automotive News, dealerships are not always familiar with the laws regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and how it relates to accommodations regarding service animals.

When retired army paratrooper Diego Hurtado took his Mercedes C300 in for a service appointment, he expected to have another a loaner Benz waiting for him. But when the dealership staff saw his service dog, they said they could not give him a Mercedes due to a policy against animals in loaner cars. The dealer said they would provide a Hertz rental car in the way of a Chrysler 200.
Hurtado's service dog is a a golden retriever and yellow Labrador mix, that is trained to help him with orthopedic and balance problems and aids his post-traumatic stress disorder.
"When my service dog gets questioned," Hurtado said, "it pushes me into anxiety."
One of the issues is that there are people who falsely claim their animal is a service animal just to get preferential treatment. This makes life more difficult for those that have legitimate needs for a trained service companion. The other problem is that many business are simply unaware of the laws regarding service animals. However denying someone equal treatment because they have a service animal is illegal and could result in a costly lawsuit.
Due to the unfair treatment by the Mercedes dealership, Hurtado got an attorney involved and sued the dealer for damages due to their alleged violation of the ADA. According to the settlement the dealership must pay Hurtado $5000 in damages in addition to his legal fees and conduct training for their employees on how to properly handle customers with service animals.
"Hopefully this is not only going to affect this dealership, but other dealerships and facilities...you can't have a rule barring" people with disabilities and their service dogs from services." - Matthew Dietz, a Miami civil rights lawyer who represented Hurtado
Unfortunately, Hurtados' case was not the only time a dealerships lack of training about service animals resulted in unfair treatment of a disabled customer. When Tarra Robinson brought her service dog to test drive an SUV at her local dealership the staff wouldn't allow it.
The dealership's staff said the dog would shed in the car and leave a mess that they'd have to clean up. She told staffers that Duchess was a working service dog, but they said that taking Duchess along was inappropriate.
Robinson refused to give the dealership business, but also found her car search to be frustrating due to the lack of awareness from the dealerships. She eventually found a dealership in Austin who was understanding and accommodating to her situation. It seems they didn't care about vacuuming out a little dog hair when they can have a happy customer and make a sale.
(Image: Getty)
additional also from Dept. of Justice ADA.gov:

35.136 Service animals

  • (a) General. Generally, a public entity shall modify its policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability.
  • (b) Exceptions. A public entity may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if—
    • (1) The animal is out of control and the animal's handler does not take effective action to control it; or
    • (2) The animal is not housebroken.
  • (c) If an animal is properly excluded. If a public entity properly excludes a service animal under § 35.136(b), it shall give the individual with a disability the opportunity to participate in the service, program, or activity without having the service animal on the premises.
  • (d) Animal under handler's control. A service animal shall be under the control of its handler. A service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal's safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler's control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means).
  • (e) Care or supervision. A public entity is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal.
  • (f) Inquiries. A public entity shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person's disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. A public entity may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. A public entity shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Generally, a public entity may not make these inquiries about a service animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person's wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability).
  • (g) Access to areas of a public entity. Individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a public entity's facilities where members of the public, participants in services, programs or activities, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go.
  • (h) Surcharges. A public entity shall not ask or require an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees, or to comply with other requirements generally not applicable to people without pets. If a public entity normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.

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