[Nfbnet-members-list] Have You Been Maltreated by a Guide Dog Program?

Marion Gwizdala, President president at nagdu.org
Fri Jun 19 00:36:07 UTC 2020

                 The National Association of Guide dog Users, a 
strong and proud division of the National Federation of the 
blind,  has recently been contacted by several individuals telling us 
that the guide dog program from which they received their dogs has 
been inserting themselves into their personal lives without consent 
at a level that is abusive and could be considered illegal. It is 
important to know that the incidents I am sharing do not represent 
all the concerns we have received, happened with three different 
guide dog training programs, and are not isolated incidents; rather, 
they are illustrative of how many guide dog users are treated by 
these programs.

In one case, the guide dog program contacted one of their consumers, 
telling them they have been watching their Facebook page and notice a 
post stating that the quarantine has kept the team from working. This 
program threatened to remove the dog unless they could prove they 
have started working the dog again. I find it difficult to believe 
that this one person is the only one to be watched and contacted.

We have also been contacted by individuals whom have had their dogs 
forcibly removed due to the dog's weight without warning, without due 
process, with no offer of intervention, and no hope of reunification. 
One individual was even threatened with arrest for animal abuse by 
the guide dog training program if the dog was not surrendered immediately.

We believe such behavior on the part of a guide dog training program 
is not only abusive and disrespectful to their right of quiet 
enjoyment. it may also be illegal, constituting Grand theft, since 
each of these individuals owned their dog.

                 A couple attending a state rehabilitation center had 
both of their guide dogs' harnesses removed abruptly because the 
Assistant Director of the facility who is also a guide dog user 
reported that the couple had been banned from the facility because 
their dogs acted aggressively toward other guide dogs. The guide dog 
program did not contact the couple in advance and conducted no 
investigation ; rather, a trainer simply showed up at their door and 
repossessed the harnesses. I contacted the Director of the facility 
and he told me the couple was not banned; in fact, they were on the 
campus as we spoke. The Assistant Director was removed. I contacted 
the guide dog training program to discuss this issue but they refused 
to talk to me, citing privacy concerns, in spite of the fact I had a 
signed authorization to release information.

                 It is also worthwhile to note that the trainer who 
removed the harness also went to the local police department to tell 
them they had repossessed the harnesses and the dogs were no longer 
legitimate guide dogs. Fortunately, due to the effort of the local 
affiliate division, the police officer knew more than the trainer 
expected and told the trainer they had no intention of interfering 
with their civil rights to use their dogs and that the essential 
element of a service dog is its training which cannot be removed. The 
couple ordered new harnesses from On the go and continued working 
their guide dogs.

                 We have also heard from several consumers of one 
specific training program that trainers regularly contact them for no 
reason and without notice stating they are five minutes away and 
demanding to see the guide dog. This program tells their consumers 
that, if they refuse to give them access to their dog, they will 
remove it permanently.

If you have had a guide dog removed or have been threatened with the 
removal of your guide dog because of its weight, unfounded 
allegations of abuse or neglect, your unwillingness to subject 
yourself to the paternalistic practices of a guide dog training 
program, or been subjected to what you feel is some other form of 
maltreatment by a guide dog training program, the National 
Association of Guide dog Users wants to hear from you! Your identity 
will be kept confidential. If we feel the data we receive is 
valuable, we may create a report of our findings. All information 
will be reported as group data, so you will remain anonymous. Please 
send a narrative of the experience you wish to share to 
<mailto:advocacy at nagdu.org>advocacy at nagdu.org.
                 So, how can you protect yourself from the unwanted, 
unwarranted interference from your guide dog training program? We 
want to offer you some guidance and support. First of all, here is 
the disclaimer: The information provided is informal guidance only; 
it should not be considered legal advice.

                 If you are contacted by a training program and they 
want to visit, you have the right to politely refuse. Thank them for 
their concern and let them know everything is okay. You may want to 
say something like, "I appreciate your interest. If I need some 
follow-up, I will give you a call."

It is also a good practice to take what is known as contemporaneous 
notes. These are notes you make during or shortly after a 
conversation. Simply write down the date and time, along with the 
details of your contact. It is also helpful if you send an email to 
the training program with your request to be left alone. These sorts 
of writings are usually evidentiary in most states should the program 
attempt to take legal action against you. Frankly, I have never heard 
of a training program suing a consumer but that doesn't mean it will 
never happen.

If someone from the guide dog training program shows up unannounced 
or, as above, says they are in the neighborhood, do not give them 
access to your dog. Guide dog users have fell for the ruse that they 
just want to see how the dog is working. Once they have the dog and 
harness, guide dogs have been loaded up and never seen again! Here, 
again, is a good time for some hard evidence. If you have an iPhone, 
simply tell Siri, "Record video". Siri will open the video camera in 
a matter of seconds. Press one of the volume keys and you are 
recording. Again, I am not an attorney but there is no expectation of 
privacy when someone enters your property. As an example, I am 
installing a doorbell camera and everyone who passes by my house or 
comes to my door will be audio and video recorded. Your iPhone is 
just another device.

                 Should your dog truly need some intensive help and 
needs to return to the training facility and you are willingly 
handing your dog over, ask for a written statement that the dog will 
be returned no matter what the outcome unless you decide otherwise. 
If they are unwilling to offer a written or even a recorded 
statement, do not surrender your dog. You will probably never see it again!

                 If you are threatened with police action if you 
refuse to allow access to your dog or surrender it, do not be 
intimidated by this. Law enforcement is only charged with enforcing 
criminal laws. The relationship between us and the training programs 
is a civil matter and no law enforcement agency will interfere in a 
civil disagreement. At the same time, it might be good for you to 
call the police yourself, as the guide dog training program is 
trespassing and for this the police can remove them!

At our annual meeting in 2013, the membership of the National 
Association of Guide dog Users unanimously endorsed the first-ever 
Guide Dog consumers' Bill of rights. You can read this document by visiting

We believe that the ownership of our guide dogs should be congruent 
with ownership rights of any property. In other words, no one may 
deprive us of our right to own and possess our property, including 
our animals, without due process. I believe guide dog training 
programs that forcibly remove a dog without our consent and without 
due process are committing grand theft, a crime which, I believe, is 
a felony in all states. Should a training program assert there is a 
report of abuse and they intend to require you to surrender your dog, 
refuse to allow this. We believe the only method to require the 
surrender of a guide dog should be if there is evidence of abuse or 
neglect as the result of a legitimate investigation by the local 
animal services department.

                 The National association of Guide dog Users and the 
National Federation of the Blind are committed to protecting your 
civil rights and right to possess your guide dog without undue, 
unwarranted interference of your guide dog. If you feel you have been 
maltreated, discriminated against due to your blindness or your 
choice to use a guide dog, or the intersection of blindness and other 
disabilities, we want to hear from you. We have tools and resources 
to resolve most issues and, if we are unable to resolve a particular 
issue, we can guide you in filing a formal complaint. Please feel 
free to write or call us for more information.

With warm regards,
Marion Gwizdala, President
National Association of Guide Dog Users Inc. (NAGDU)
National Federation of the Blind
(813) 626-2789
President at NAGDU.ORG
<http://nagdu.org/>Visit our website
<http://twitter.com/nagdu>Follow us on Twitter

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the 
characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise 
expectations because low expectations create barriers between 
blind  people and our dreams. You can live the life you want! 
Blindness is not what holds you back.

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