Vet with service dog denied access to public places

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BRADENTON, Fla. - Thousands of men and women across the country have answered the call to serve in our armed forces.  And for many the transition back to civilian life can be a rough one.

US Veteran Anthony Driscoll says a service dog has helped him make that process easier. Anthony was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and like many veterans, he suffers with post traumatic stress disorder. 

"I have extreme anxiety, extreme anger issues," said Anthony.

So Anthony decided to get a service dog to help relieve some of his stress.  "He basically is a buffer when I go out into the community.  He alleviates my anxiety.  When we're out he either stands behind me or in front of me. He'll also helps me out with my nightmares at night and wake me up," added Anthony.

But despite being trained and properly certified, Anthony says he and his service dog Onyx are constantly denied access to public locations -- with the most recent incidents happening at his church.

"One of the security guys walked up and basically told me that I wasn't going to bring Onyx into the sanctuary," said Anthony.

Onyx has been to the church before and despite have the proper documentation they were still being denied access.  "Basically he told me I'm not blind, so why do I have a service dog?  And there's no reason why he should be coming in," said Anthony.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, established back in 1990, allows service dogs in all public places. However, churches and their activities are exempt under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and have the right to refuse service dogs.

And the services the dogs provide expands beyond helping just the blind.  "You don't have to see the disability.  That why I called them invisible disabilities", said Mike Halley from K-9'S For Veterans, the organizations that trained and certified Onyx.  "You don't see seizure, you don see heart attacks, you don't see post traumatic stress disorder" Halley added.  

But despite service dogs' many purposes, Anthony and his wife Mary are constantly being told they are not welcomed.

"The dog is suppose to help alleviate anxiety.  A lot of times, because of those circumstances, it creates anxiety.  If people were more aware and understood that there are other purposes for service animals except seeing eye dogs, it would make things a lot easier," said Mary.

The Driscoll's were able to resolve the problem with their church and they are now allowed in.  But they want to get the word out about service dogs so other people aren't treated the way he and his family have been.