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.