Sight Dog Rights

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Like other blind folks in our area, Susan Weeks relies on her leader dog Coda to help her get around.

Every once in a while Susan and other visually impaired people run into a reluctant store owner who doesn't want the service dog in their store.

Susan says, "You wouldn't tell a person in a wheel chair that they couldn't enter the business or that they had to leave their wheel chair outside. There's no way I could do without a guide dog."

And Susan shouldn't have to do without her dog, because as Valdosta police say, it's against Georgia law to prevent a service dog from entering any public facility.

Brian Childress, Valdosta police spokesperson, says, "The law says that any business or facility open to the general public who denies a person who uses a guide dog entrance into the business, they're actually committing a misdemeanor offense."

It’s an offense which could result in an arrest if the store owner does not change their stance and allow the dog inside.

Stephanie Slocumb of the SGA Blind Alliance says, "If you take the dog away from them you're taking their independence away from them, because that's what they use for independence. Whereas you guys use a car or truck, we would use the guide dog."

Susan says resistance to her leader dog is rare, but everyone should be aware of the law and accommodate both dog and owner.

Police say most of the problem comes from new store owners who are not aware of the law.