Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Service Animals Banned In Cambridge City Council??

Below is a copy of the letter I wrote to Michael Muehe, complaining about the harrassment, retaliation, coertion, intimidation and threats of arrest because I chose to exercise my civil rights, and attend the City Council meeting, Monday evening, Oct 30, 2006, along with other members of the public. I have been attending these meetings for over 5 years now, and without any problems.

Where is the outrage for this demeaning bigotry, this hateful behavior? Am I an object to be ordered about by arragant out of control City Councillors? Shall the Mayor ignore the cry for help from a member of the public when he fails to control the City Councilors during the business of City Council he is chairing? Would he have called for the police to arrest a person of colour, a gay, a woman, a Jey, that was ordered to leave in violation of their civil rights? why does he believe that when a person with a disability acompianied by their service animal exercises their civil rights it is a "sense of entitlement?"

These are intolerable acts!

Michael Muehe, ADA coordinator, City of Cambridge, MA.

During the City Council meeting last night, I suffered retaliation for exercising my civil right to be accompianied by my service animal.

Concillor Decker, during the City Council meeting, without asking for a recess, rushed across the council chamber and into the public seating area, and demanded I leave the meeting because she claimed my service animal was causing her discomfort due to her allergy, explaining that she had not taken her allergy medication that evening. I declined, and she said she would have me removed. I announced that my civil rights were being violated. The Mayor, Ken Reeves, apparently not understanding what Decker was doing, accused me, and not Decker, of causing a disturbance, and ordered the police be called. (Decker had done this without calling for a recess.)

The police arrived immediately, and Police Commissioner Watson ordered me to leave the council chambers. I refused, and informed him that I had a civil right to be accompianied by my service animal. Watson stated it was not because of the animal, but because I created a disturbance. I responded by informing him of what just happened. Nancy Glower, the City's solicitor, was also informed by me of what Decker had done. I explained that the recess was not called by her until after she had rushed me and demanded I leave, right in the middle of the meeting, and which was the real cause of the disturbance, and which act violated my civil rights. The Animal control unit was called.

Glower returned to the "Green Room" and after a couple min returned (while she was away, the police continued to coerce and intimidate me if front of all present) offering me a choice of "reasonable accomodations." first, I could be placed in a seperate room, with the service animal, and watch the meeting on TV, or two, the dog could be removed to a seperate place, while I would be "allowed" to remain in the public meeting room. I declined, and informed her that this was not an issue of "special accomodations" but that I had a civil right to be accompianied by my service animal in any place the public could go, and I observed many members of the public were present, including black people.

She then, again, told me I had to leave due to Councillor Decker's discomfort due to her allergy. I explained that I was already accomodating Decker's allergy, as requested in the Oct 16th meeting, by sitting on the far side, in the back, near the windows. I again stated that an allergy to animals was not a reason to deny access to PWD's who were accompianied by their service animals. I further explained that only if Decker's allergy was raised to the level of a disability as defined by the Civil Rights Act of 1990, could I be asked to move. I informed Glower that Decker's allergy did not raise to that level because she admitted to me that she was not taking her allergy medication that evening.

Glower left. Decker returned to council chambers and Reeves conviened the meeting, Decker stated she could not remain in the meeting due to her allergy to animals. She left the meeting. Reeves stated that some people feel they are entitled to come to the meetings and do anything they want to do. I stayed.

However, I was publically humilaited, and scared by this ruthless intimidation.

ADA says

1. Allergies are not a basis for denying a PWD to be accompianied by their service animal. Even if Decker's allergy raises to the level of a disability, a person with a service animal cannot be excluded from public meetings, and that sitting away from her is enough of an accomodation.

2. The "reasonable accomodations" offered by the City are not reasonable nor appropiate.

3. If the police do arrest me, they must "allow" my service animal to accompiany me to the jail.

4. This episode is retaliation in response to me exercising my civil rights.

6 Comments:

At Sunday, January 07, 2007 10:06:00 AM, Blogger Rheum Baby said...

Hi, individuals wih serious allergies do rise to the level of disability. The competing rights of the allergic disabled peson and the person with a service animal must be balanced. In the case of allergic asthma one could end up with an immediate life threatening situation. Thus,the person who might have an immediate threat to life/well being should be favored. Allergy dander is airborne, thus depending on the animal, size of the room, severity of the allergy etc separate places in the same room might not be a reasonable option. It seems the compassionate solution in your situation would be to allow the animal to be in a separate enclosed area until you had definite need of the animal.

 
At Wednesday, January 24, 2007 2:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To "Baby",
Service animals are not fashion accessories and are needed at all times. They are medical eqipment, plain and simple. The REAL compassionate solution would have been for the arrogant, hateful counsillor to just treat everyone the same, and not lie and assume she is more important than another person. Allergies are nothing, she chose to not take her pill, so she feels entitled to attack, harrass, and publicly humiliate someone just becuase of her own laziness? If she doesn't take pills, that's her poblem and not anyone elses. It's obviously not important at all if you can just choose when to take it or not. If allergies were real, all dog owners would be asked to leave, because the "dander" is all over them in large amounts. Obviously this is not the case so it's not a real allergy. It was just an evil thing Kathy needlessly had to endure. God bless her.

 
At Wednesday, January 24, 2007 9:52:00 PM, Blogger Kathy Podgers said...

I want ti thank both of you for the time you took to leave comments. I will return and write more, but tomight I am quite ill, severe chills, and break thru pain.

briefly let me share with you both that Sullivan Chamber, where the public meetings are held is not a small room, It is aprox 45' wide and 50' long. The ceiling is two "City Hall size" stories high. There is a wall with plenty of windows. There are two antichambers, immediately adjacent to the Council Chambers where City Councillors hang out during much of the City Council meetings, (when they aren't using the rooma to sneek out of the meetings and go home early, a common occurance) Councillors come to the door of the green room, to "vote" on agenda items. Sometimes they havd left for other places, and return through the green room, then ask for the Chail to 'record" their vote/s on the items they missed, so members of the public who are not there, think they were there and voted, it is later printed on the City Council web pages.

One reason it is important to be present at City Council meetings is to observe what is going on "off camera" as the camera is focused on the councillors faces. I( have yet to see the camera focus on the empty chairs.

The current Mayor, Ken reeves, became upset when he first started chairing the meetings, because when I observe an "empty room" I naturally asked "are we in session?" and "is there a quorum?"

Even so, I gladly moved as far away as possible so she wouldn't be "in discomfort." I do not believe this is an either or situation. However, some people should learn their manners, at least. Not to mention follow the open meeting law.

Thanks again for the comments. Take care Kathy

 
At Saturday, December 08, 2007 1:21:00 PM, Anonymous Lainey and Lunar said...

Hi Kathy,

I have MS and have a service dog. A couple of months ago I had occasion to visit a public office for a personal matter. The person I met with was highly allergic to animals but also loved animals. She immediately took an anti-allergy pill to combat symptoms of asthma. In this situation, we worked together for a solution. Unfortunately, when a person is belligerant it is very difficult to control the situation especially when you are outnumbered.

There are many people who need education about Service Dogs - they definitely are not fashion accessories! However, if your symptoms are hidden, if they do not appear life threatening,or if you are someone who does not subscribe to the stereotypical passive person with a disability, and if you are a person who advocates for yourself and others with disabilities, then folks who are not informed sometimes become outraged. Know this, they are mostly outraged at their own stupidity. When I have encountered these situations that drain our energy, etc. I try to decelerate a situation to the point of apology but sometimes that is not possible. I recently had the highway dept. hang up on me in my town while complaining about curb-cuts not clear 4 days after the last snowfall!

I'd like to attend Cambridge City Council Meetings with you in solidarity. Let me know when Kathy. In the meantime - keep strong and do not let the ignorant ever get you down. As the saying goes, never, never, never, quit!

Elaine and Lunar

 
At Saturday, January 12, 2008 3:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At Tuesday, June 28, 2011 10:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too have a service animal, she has saved my life more than once and I will not go anywhere without her.

I also have to battle ignorance within our town's employees. I've been told that I can only use the COA van or go to the senior center when there is no one there with allergies.

Allergies can be controlled with medication, there are no meds for me.

 

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