Service poodles

Discussion in 'The DIS Unplugged Podcast' started by mclyndaker, Oct 31, 2018.

  1. mclyndaker

    mclyndaker Earning My Ears

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    I'm working my way backward through the podcast at an ALARMING rate because work has been super slow.

    Does anyone know what ever happened to the woman with the "service poodles"? I'm curious because generally the standard for service dogs in training there would NEVER be more than one dog per handler. Training an SD requires total attention and so it's wild to me that she would be allowed anywhere with that many, let alone Disney World.
     
  2. jcb

    jcb always emerging from hibernation

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    Funny you should ask. On Monday (Oct. 29) the court ruled on Disney's motion to dismiss the complaint. I'll upload a copy of the ruling (I think). Understand that at this stage, the only question before the court is whether the allegations in the complaint are legally sufficient. In other words, Disney doesn't get to put on any contrary facts.

    To summarize the ruling:
    • When Orange County Sheriff Deputies at Disney Springs asked plaintiff to provide the service dogs (plural) "certification" that request violated ADA regulations. The Department of Justice (DOJ) ADA regulations do not permit "public accommodations" (which includes Disney) to require "proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal.” 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(6). Because the complaint alleged the deputies were agents of Disney, Disney is responsible for this alleged ADA violation.
    • The court rejected the plaintiff's argument that Disney could not ask her about the service animals at all because any "place of public accommodation is permitted to ask two questions to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal: (1) “if the animal is required because of a disability and” (2) “what work or task the animal has been trained to perform.” 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(6).
    • Of course, moving forward, the plaintiff will have to prove the deputies asked for certification of her service animal. It will be interesting to see if any security or body cameras picked up the alleged confrontation.
    • Plaintiff also complained about Disney not permitting her to train service animals at Disney Springs. She lost this argument handily. The complaint described one incident where plaintiff was at Disney Springs with her service animal, a friend's service animal and an animal she was allegedly training. The ADA regulations state “individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a place of public accommodation where members of the public, program participants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go.” 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(7). From this, the court reasoned, the "ADA regulations do not permit Plaintiff to bring any and all service animals to places of public accommodation, but only those that belong to her" and Disney "was not required to permit the two dogs that did not belong to Plaintiff at Disney Springs for training or any other purpose." The court also pointed out that the DOJ has taken the position (on its website) that service animals in training are not service animals.
    • I'll note (as the court did) that Florida law provides that service animals may be trained in public places but this statute, the court held, did not permit the plaintiff to sue Disney for an alleged violation. The statute made violations a criminal misdemeanor.
    • The court also permitted one aspect of plaintiff's retaliation claim to proceed. Plaintiff alleged Disney retaliated against her because she filed a May 6, 2017, complaint with the Florida Human Rights Commission (FHRC) after the incident at Disney Springs. She alleged that in a visit on May 27, 2017, other Disney guests wanted to "grab" her dog and then screamed curse words at her. (There has to be more to this story.) When she complained to Disney's "head of security", the head of security told her that if she didn't want people grabbing her service dog and scream curse words at her, then she should not bring her service dog to the Disney Parks. Focusing on the allegation that the person making this statement was the head of security, the court held that this statement could be unlawful retaliation under the ADA. "The head of security is not a regular employee; the position requires the head of security to protect those on Defendant’s property. Defendant’s head of security’s comment indicates that security would not protect Plaintiff or intervene when Plaintiff and her service animal were being accosted by others at Defendant’s park."
    • The decision flubbed one point, however. Disney argued the plaintiff failed to allege the head of security knew the plaintiff had (on May 6, 2017) filed a complaint with the FHRC. Retaliation claims require evidence that protected activity caused the unwanted conduct. Causation always requires some degree of evidence that the person accused of retaliation knew about the protected activity. The court, however, said the short period of time between the May 6, 2017, filing with FHRC and the May 27, 2017, conversation with Disney's Head of Security permitted the court to infer there was causation in ruling on the motion to dismiss.
    • Courts, sadly, rely on the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc to show some initial (and rebuttable) proof of causation (most hold that when rebutted, timing alone isn't enough to prevail). Courts do not, however, use the logical fallacy to infer knowledge of the protected activity. (If you complain to the EEOC on October 31, and your employer fires you on November 1, you must still show the decision maker knew you complained to the EEOC even though the timing alone looks suspicious.) The court seemed to realize the problem its ruling posed because the decision explained that the court's ruling applied only to the motion to dismiss so that plaintiff could find out whether the head of security knew she had filed a FHRC complaint.
    • Plaintiff's other retaliation claims were not as successful. She made "vague allegations" of other Disney employees following her around in an "overtly hostile manner." The court held this allegation not enough to show that Disney retaliated against her.[/I]

    While not wholly successful, the ruling is much better for Disney than the plaintiff. She lost on her big argument, her "right" to train service animals at Disney Springs. Her claims have also been narrowed to pretty limited incidents (though the court is giving her one more chance to allege additional facts in support of the dismissed allegations, particularly the allegation that Disney employees were "overtly hostile" to her).
     

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    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018 at 1:14 PM
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  4. sara_s

    sara_s Mouseketeer

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    I saw her in Epcot at the end of September. Poor dogs were dyed purple and blue. :sad2:
     
  5. Tramp&TheLady

    Tramp&TheLady Mouseketeer

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    yup saw them there on our last trip. we are poodle owners so we were happy to see them. little did we know this woman was trying to scam the system.
     
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  6. OKW Lover

    OKW Lover Retired and living 2 miles from The Castle. DIS Lifetime Sponsor

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    Thanks for the well written abstract of the ruling Jack. As you note, this ruling is mostly in Disney's favor. I'd suspect that this gives a good indication that Disney will prevail when they have the opportunity to present their side of the case. Any indication as to what/when the next step in the case is? @jcb
     
  7. mclyndaker

    mclyndaker Earning My Ears

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    Definitely interested in following this. I'm assuming there must be more to the story than what's on the surface. Thanks for the indepth info!
     
  8. GAN

    GAN DIS Veteran

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    I saw a woman at AK a year or so ago with three dogs -can’t remember if they were poodles, but don’t think they all were. I love animals and don’t have an issue with a comfort animal in a park, but these dogs weren’t very well cared for. Bringing three was a bit much. I figured she had one for each issue she had or maybe one for each personality....
     
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  9. SorcererHeidi

    SorcererHeidi Sorcerer please cast forever love spell for me

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    I remember many years ago, being at the "Lights, Motor, Action" show (thinking of Ryno right now!) :), sitting next to a "service dog" (using that term in quotes because while it had a vest on, the vest had a Batman logo, and no wording, so have no idea how official this was, and like I said - this was about 10 years ago) and the dog was shrinking back in fear, slobbering, and shaking like a leaf every time a car would VRROOM really loudly, or a pyrotechnic would go off, or something like that. The poor thing was TERRIFIED, and pathetically looking around for somebody to help it. I asked the "handler" if I could put my hands over the dog's ears to protect its sensitive hearing. She gave me a nasty look, but also her permission. I cradled the grateful hero while covering his poor assaulted ears. Makes me teary eyed every single time I think of it.
     
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  10. jcb

    jcb always emerging from hibernation

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    Sorry, Jeff, I was in DL and SFO last week and missed your post.

    To update, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint on 11/12/2018. The court permitted her the opportunity to provide more details of some allegations so the amended complaint goes into more details about the encounters with the deputies at Disney Springs and additional allegations of retaliation by Disney security and cast members. I won't try to describe them but will upload a copy of the amended complaint where I have highlighted the new allegations. Most of the allegations complain that various CM's refused to help her or her party when asked.

    Having read a lot of court filings, there comes a time when you think that the lawyer basically took what the plaintiff wrote and pasted the paragraphs into the document, mistakes and all. We'll never know if that occurred here but the added paragraphs are pretty sloppy and still include a lot of very vague allegations.

    Disney will probably move to dismiss the amended complaint. Otherwise, Disney will answer and the parties will conduct discovery. Disney's next move is currently due 11/26/2018, though with the holidays in between, I'd expect Disney to ask for more time.
     

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  11. SorcererHeidi

    SorcererHeidi Sorcerer please cast forever love spell for me

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    @jcb - Thanx for your legal wisdom, as always.

    Hope you had a great trip!

    I (NOT FONDLY!) remember the discovery process from my time in a Records Division. Ugh. Every time I hear the words, to this day, it makes me tense up, feel stressed, overworked, confused, and not Disney-like at all! :)
     
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