Dogs & Laws

Veteran and His Service Dog Booted From NJ Boardwalk

Jared Goering, his wife Sally, and his service dog named Navigator visited North Wildwood, New Jersey, to walk along the Jersey Shore on their first vacation together in several years. A North Wildwood police officer, misinformed and uneducated about the rights of service dogs and their owners, not only booted the family from the boardwalk with a summons, but questioned the validity of Goering’s service dog, offended the US. hero, and provided the couple with false contact information for his supervisor.

Jared, a U.S. veteran who spent 19 years serving in the army, was forced into medical retirement in 2009, the victim of 2 separate IED explosions over a 36-hour period while serving in Afghanistan. Suffering from the psychological effects of what he endured overseas, including PTSD, Goering credits his service dog, a Labrador retriever named Navigator with allowing him to lead a normal life.

“Before I got my dog, I didn’t want to do anything,” the veteran said.  “I didn’t want to go with my wife anywhere.  I didn’t like crowds.  Then I got my dog and I was able to go out and do that stuff,” Goering said.

The Goerings told ABC Action News, the officer told them that only guide dogs for the blind were allowed on the boardwalk. Even after showing the officer Renegade’s vest and service dog insignia, the officer didn’t want to hear any of it. They were issued a summons and booted from the property. After trying to explain their rights and asking to speak to a supervisor, the officer allegedly gave the couple a false address.

To add insult to injury, among other offensive remarks to the couple, “He went on to say that, ‘What are they doing?  Giving every vet a dog now?'” Sally Goering told ABC Action News.

The North Wildwood Police Department has since launched an internal investigation into the incident. Matthew Gallagher, North Wildwood chief of police said that the officer will be reprimanded if the investigation deems it necessary. The city’s mayor has also promised to release an official apology to the family.

According the the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title III, 28 CFR Section 36.104, grants access rights to Service Dog teams to areas open to the public. This includes restaurants, hotels, taxis & shuttles, public transit, grocery & department stores, hospitals & medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos – and public boardwalks.

As explained by Service Dog Awareness, a business or public venue may ask: 1. Is the dog is a Service Animal? 2. What task(s) has the Service Dog been trained to perform? Under no circumstances can one ask questions about a person’s disability. Persons with disabilities who use a service animal cannot be charged additional fees, nor may they be isolated from or treated less favorably than other patrons.

Gallagher says that an officer has contacted America’s Vet Dogs for information about better identifying service dogs and to learn the laws and rights of service dog teams – an action that should have taken place a very long time ago.

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. J B ONeill

    Aug 14, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    What a travesty. The Town of N. Wildwood needs to be taken to court even if the Goerings are not “suit” minded. This is a violation of Mr. Goering’s rights and if he doesn’t want compensation, perhaps he could donate to an assistance animals charity. The municipality is definitely in the wrong.

  2. bobbye laubenheimer

    Aug 14, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    the officer should be fired. He is probably young, never served our country.
    This is disgusting and an embarrassment to the state of NJ>

  3. Scott Peterson

    Aug 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    This all comes down to the definition of a service dog. That’s a dog that’s trained to perform a task to assist someone. In other words, the dog has to do something, not just be there. This dog sounds more like an emotional support dog that would not be subject to access under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    The officer is allowed to ask what the dog does to help the individual. If the answer indicates that Mr. Goerings dog was an emotional support dog then the officer was correct that the dog couldn’t be there. But issuing a citation in those circumstances is pretty contemptible.

  4. denise

    Aug 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    i think it should be manatory to go throught some kind of class to learn what to do in things like this

  5. Joe McGinley

    Aug 14, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Lode his job? Are you kidding? In Philadelphia you can punch a woman in the mouth on camera and not lose your job.

  6. Rick Phelps

    Aug 14, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I was diagnosed with Early On-Set Alzheimer’s three yrs. ago at the age of 57. I too have a service dog. What these dogs offer their handlers is priceless.

    This police officer needs to issue them a public apology, and he needs some time off to get some sort of attitude adjustment. I was in Law Enforcement and EMS before my diagnosis, and you don’t treat anyone disrespectful like these two were treated.

    We have enough going on, people who need these animals. Then you have some wanna be showing what little authority he has. This situation should have never happened. And to tell him, “what are they doing, giving all vets dogs now?”. Makes my blood boil.

    I thank this man for his service. And hope he realizes not all police officers are that clueless.

  7. Sarina Aguilar

    Aug 14, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Shame, shame, shame!!!!

  8. cmbtmedic101

    Aug 14, 2013 at 8:15 am

    John is very right in saying that more people need to stand up for their rights. However, be smart about it. Know what your rights are before shoving your chest out in protest. A good place to start learning about how to stand up for your rights is http://www.flexyourrights.org

  9. Carol Myron

    Aug 14, 2013 at 7:31 am

    My son has a skilled companion certified service dog. she has a tattoo in her ear, a legal vest, and an identification card with her (and our) picture. The ADA law states that you do not have to state the reason for the service dog or the disability.

    We were once asked to leave a very famous restaurant in Pt. Pleasant because “my son was not blind”.

  10. Karen

    Aug 14, 2013 at 7:04 am

    The Department of Justice has already addressed the issue of abuse of service dog identification (be it vests/fake IDs, etc.) by allowing businesses to ask two questions of the user: Is that a service animal? What tasks does the animal perform? Even if the service dog is legitimate, it can be removed if it behaves inappropriately. What is needed is greater education of business venues, not more laws to restrict sale and use of service dog equipment. The former helps everyone, the latter negatively impacts legitimate owner-trained or privately-trained teams who are not able to find a program to fit their needs.

  11. Just Sayin

    Aug 14, 2013 at 12:12 am

    I agree with the purchase problem on Ebay and other such sites. However the sales process can be changed to require the ADA / State registry number of the animal items are being purchased for. Petition’s are not the only answer. Just Sayin:

  12. George Chase

    Aug 13, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    That cop should lose his badge and be sent to Walter Reed for training. Never allowed a position of authority again! All he had to do was call his superior for instructions.

  13. Mindy Kallunki-Hill

    Aug 13, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I have a service dog as I have Als. I am sorry this happened. I haven’t had any problem with getting turned away. I am one who bought my dog & trained it myself. I might not live long enough to be on a waiting list. So don’t condemn the internet ID.

  14. Sharon Ware

    Aug 13, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    As stated by others I am surprised that an officer of the law is so ignorant and that the police department does not keep up on updating their employees. Maybe this officer is one of those with a “Gestapo” attitude which several do have in Jersey. And since he was on the Boardwalk is he an official officer or one of the local “Protection” services that are used in the area. Still no excuse for what happened. Especially if he made “the Veteran” comment. To me it shows he is just a jerk all around. My husband is a Veteran along with a Jersey resident and offended was not exactly the word he yelled when he read this article.

  15. John

    Aug 13, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Yes, the office was totally wrong & yes, very misinformed. However, in all these stories of people & their Service dogs, I don’t recall ever hearing that they stood their ground. It’s usually them giving in then reporting it later. If it’s the police or anyone, make them call in a supervisor, but don’t just give in and leave. Will it draw attention, probably. But you need to stand up to them so they can be educated and properly embarrassed. I bet it will be handled correctly next time.

    • oksunny

      Aug 13, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      good idea

    • Michelle

      Aug 14, 2013 at 8:50 am

      The problem with standing your ground is it could go south real fast, you get arrested and the dog shot for trying to protect you..

    • Cathy

      Aug 14, 2013 at 10:59 am

      Standing down a cop is not a good idea. You will not win, the cop has all the power. The best thing to do when dealing with any cop playing the power card is to simply follow whatever instructions given and then fight it out in the media or in court later. Pick and encourage battles that people actually have a chance of winning, not battles where one side has all the power. Better to encourage people to contact their local police departments and let them know what the rules for service animals are. That is something any group or individual could do to lessen the chance of these incidents happening in the first place. If every person that had a service dog contacted their local LEOs and basically had a friendly meet and greet and shared the rules/information regarding service animals it could stop a lot of these kinds of situations from happening. Everybody knows somebody who is or is related to a cop. Use those connections to spread the facts.

  16. Dawn

    Aug 13, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    More and more it seems our police forces are forgetting that they are employees of the people of our cities and towns, their paychecks paid for by our tax dollars. And everyone they encounter, and our pets, should be first and foremost treated with respect.

    • Gina Sicina

      Aug 13, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      Dawn…I completely agree with you…I think many people who become cops have serious egos and have power issues. This is showing itself with all these shootings of innocent dogs by cops !

    • denise

      Aug 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      DAWN i agree now adays people dont care the police should go to training befor doing what they do.

  17. mjloucks

    Aug 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Again something with the police! What is wrong!

  18. Katie

    Aug 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    *sign

  19. Katie

    Aug 13, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    To Brenda: Here’s waht you can do to stop the false identification of pets as service animals: http://www.cci.org/site/c.cdKGIRNqEmG/b.8753053/k.4B2E/Stop_Fake_Service_Dog_Products/apps/ka/ct/contactus.asp?c=cdKGIRNqEmG&b=8753053&en=8rKFLROvF7KOJ1NyE6ILKYOJKiLIL0OEIeLVL5MMIrJ5G

    Canine Companions International is lobbying the Department of Justice to crack down on the sale of such products. Please sing the petition and share it online.

    • Catherine

      Aug 13, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Be very careful about signing such a petition. While users of legitimate service dogs share the distaste of people using “fake” service dogs this could have a negative impact on disabled persons with owner or private trained service dogs. Not every disabled person chooses to be on a waiting list or has the means to go through an organization to obtain a needed service animal. JMHO

      • Sharon

        Aug 13, 2013 at 11:01 pm

        Thank you for pointing out that disabled people such as I who have owner-trained service dogs could be negatively impacted by petitions asking the DOJ to “crack down”. Laws already exist to punish the fakers who purchase vests and present their pets as service animals—much better for everyone if these existing laws were enforced and some examples were made, rather than change things so that those of us who capably and fully train our medical alert service dogs are stripped of equal protection under the ADA just because we don’t go through a school or organization to get our service dogs. I would put my dog up against school/organization trained dog, I am that confident in her training and abilities.

    • Kathi York

      Aug 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      But there’s also the opposite, Katie… Some people actually DO need service animals and people don’t have the right to confront them about their disability and why they are needing a service dog. The law states this. I, myself, do not look disabled, but have a therapy dog. I also carry the letter from my physician stating that I require this dog. So please be careful who you confront. It’s a shame people would go to lengths like this to just have their pet with them, but for the ones that really require it, it makes it a bad situation.

  20. Brenda Messick

    Aug 13, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    While I do agree that the word “Service animal” is being attached to too many animals who are not (the person purchased the vest from eBay or such); this was definitely NOT the way for this to be handled. I am amazed that the police department has not had the appropriate education in how to handle this type of situation.

  21. Brenda Leighton

    Aug 13, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I can’t believe a police officer could be so ignorant and rude!! We owe all our vets a debt of gratitude and respect!! I am appalled that his supervisor hasn’t reprimanded him!

    • Lynn Wharran

      Aug 14, 2013 at 8:56 am

      I can, police are rude and ignorant about a lot of things. That’s why you always hear of them shooting dogs for no reason. They are their own vigilante. This officer needs to be re-trained and his mouth sewn shut. He doesn’t evidentally know the laws regarding service dogs. Stupid P.O.S., he needs to be suspended without pay and made to go to school to learn the laws about service animals. Idiot, go bury yourself in the sand you stupid idiot.

    • Laura

      Aug 21, 2013 at 10:19 am

      While it may not be right, emotional support dogs are not covered under the ADA laws. Only service dogs trained to assist a person with a physical disability are covered. Until the law is changed, the officer was correct. And anyone can get a service dog vest and ID online. These are not required by law for a service dog. And sadly many people try to pass their pet dogs off as service dogs for emotional support.

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