Rose Holowka, a Tennessee woman dealing with disabilities resulting from a car accident, claims her service dog, Honey, led employees at a Goodwill shop to deny her entrance. Tennessee Goodwill's CEO has rebuffed the allegation, saying the workers were within their rights.
Holowka says she was involved in a crash in 1992 which led to epilepsy that sometimes gave her partial complex seizures. Honey helps her deal with the resulting complications, but Holowka says the fact that she has no lasting visible effects sometimes complicates the process.
“About a month ago my husband and I went to the Goodwill, and we were approached by their supervisor. We were told that we had to leave or show certification or documentation for the dog," Holowka told WCYB.
That's not a legal request, according to the national Americans with Disabilities Act, which states that "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."
Tennessee Goodwill CEO Bob Miller has responded, however, defending his employees' actions and pointing out that a statute in Tennessee law does permit for establishments to "request credentials" regarding service animals.
"Employees at the Goodwill store in Johnson City, TN, operated within Tennessee state law when they asked for documentation of a service dog. Since 2001, Tennessee law has allowed stores and facilities to request documentation of a service animal as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act," Miller said in a statement.
Miller went on to say that Goodwill has decided to alter its policy to be in line with the national Americans With Disabilities Act.
"We will instead follow the broader federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which allows store employees to ask a store guest if any animal present is a service animal required because of a disability and about the service or task the animal has been trained to perform," he said. "According to the ADA, you are permitted to ask these questions whenever an animal enters a facility."
Service dog discrimination is not an uncommon problem. In Canada, a 9-year-old autistic girl was barred from a store twice last year after attempting to enter with her service dog, an action not permitted under the nation's human rights law.
Also in Florida this week, 57-year-old Joseph Pineau claimed that a bouncer had refused to let him into a local bar because he had his service dog with him. The bar's owner told WFTX that he was unaware of the incident, and when it was brought to his attention, reportedly called Pineau to apologize and invite him back to the establishment.
This story has been updated to include a statement from Tennessee Goodwill CEO Bob Miller.