TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Division on Civil Rights announced today that an Essex County delicatessen has agreed to pay a legally blind man $1,500 to resolve allegations that it unlawfully refused to allow the man’s guide dog in the store. In addition to paying Bloomfield resident Dalvin Adebiyi, the Broughten Deli of Bloomfield must train its employees regarding their legal obligations when dealing with service animals, and also provide them with related sensitivity training.
In a separate case, the Division has issued a Finding of No Probable Cause in the case of a California man who accused Morristown Memorial Hospital, in Morris County, of discriminating by refusing to accommodate his 12-pound poodle, which he claimed to have trained personally as a service dog.
In that case, the Division found that the dog – despite having an “Assistance Dog Tag” issued by the Animal Care and Control Department of the City and County of San Francisco – failed to receive the type of training associated with a service dog. As part of its investigation, the Division contacted San Francisco animal control authorities and were told that the Assistance Dog Tag was never intended to suggest that its wearer was a trained service animal, and that many animals who receive the tags are in fact untrained.
“Both of these outcomes are significant because they involve an area of the law that is important to many people with disabilities and because, frankly, there is confusion and misinformation out there regarding the law, ”said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “In New Jersey, a person accompanied by a properly trained service animal cannot be barred or restricted from using a place of public accommodation. However, of necessity, we must have standards and we must have rules.
“An individual cannot simply declare his or her dog a service animal,” Hoffman added. “There is responsibility and accountability on both sides of the service dog issue.”
In the Broughten Deli case, Adebiyi and his guide dog entered the sandwich shop on August 2, 2013 accompanied by an orientation and mobility specialist employed by the New Jersey Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired. An employee of the store asked Adebiyi to remove his dog. The Division for the Blind employee, who was assisting Adebiyi in learning a new walking route to a pharmacy in Bloomfield, identified himself and explained that the dog was a service animal allowed by law to enter the store. The employee persisted in his call to remove the dog.
Adebiyi later filed a Complaint with the Division on Civil Rights, and the owner subsequently agreed to a settlement resolving the matter. Under the agreement, Broughten Deli makes no admission of wrongdoing or liability.
In the case involving Morristown Memorial Hospital, a California man identified as H.O. filed a Complaint with the Division after he was advised during his mother’s hospitalization in July 2013 that his “trained” poodle was not permitted in the emergency room and, later, in her hospital room.
The man also alleged there was a second incident at the hospital in December 2013. In that incident, he claimed he and the dog were first denied a visit with his mother in the hospital’s “pre-op” unit, then were permitted a truncated visit of only five minutes, while his father and sister visited for 30 minutes or more.
H.O. told Division investigators that he personally trained his poodle to notify him each day at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to take his daily medication for a disability, and to recognize when he is becoming anxious so that he can take psychotropic medication prescribed for him on an “as needed” basis. He also referred to the assistance dog tag` issued him by authorities in San Francisco.
In Finding No Probable Cause, the Division determined that H.O.’s poodle did not qualify as a service dog entitled to access public facilities under the LAD.
The LAD holds that a service dog must be “individually trained to the requirements of a person with a disability” and defines a service dog trainer as a “person who is employed by an organization generally recognized by agencies involved in the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities as reputable and competent to provide dogs with training.”
The Division also noted that, despite the fact that hospital officials were within the law to completely prohibit H.O. from visiting his mother when accompanied by the dog, he and the poodle had -- in both the July 2013 and December 2013 situations – managed to visit with her.
In the July incident, H.O. ignored repeated admonitions that the poodle was not allowed and visited with his mother anyway, and in the December 2013 incident, he had been granted five minutes accompanied by the dog.
The Finding of No Probable Cause signed by Division on Civil Rights Director Craig T. Sashihara noted that the “threshold issue” remained that H.O.’s dog’s was not a service dog within the definition of the law, but also noted that in the end, H.O. “was reasonably accommodated.”