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Justice: Lawyer fined for snubbing service dog

  • March 27, 2010
  • Bruce Bromley

A Colorado Springs attorney accused of not allowing a disabled woman and her service dog into his office because he feared his new carpet might be soiled will pay $50,000 as part of a consent decree approved by a federal court today.

A November 2009 complaint accused Patric LeHouillier of violating the Americans with Disabilities act by barring Joan Murnane, a veterinarian with brain and other injuries that affect her balance, from entering his  law office because her service dog was with her.

The complaint says LeHouillier and his firm, LeHouillier & Associates, expressed concern that the Australian shepherd might soil its new carpet, according to a report in Westword.

That decision, under the consent decree, will cost him $50,000 –  $30,000 for Murnane, $10,000 for her husband and another $10,000 for a civil penalty.

“For almost two decades, the ADA has ensured that individuals with disabilities are guaranteed full and equal access to public accommodations, both large and small,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is unrelenting in [eradicating] discrimination against people with disabilities and ensuring that owners and operators of public accommodations recognize their obligations to provide equal access.”

The consent decree was approved by Judge Marcia S. Krieger in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

Under its terms, LeHouillier and his firm will be required to adopt an ADA-compliant service animal policy and post the policy in a conspicuous location, post a “Service Animals Welcome” sign, and provide training to staff.

The press release noted that a service animal is any animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability — and that the classification is not limited to dogs that assist the blind.

It includes, the press release says, dogs who alert individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, warn persons about impending seizures or other medical conditions, perform tasks for persons with psychiatric disabilities and provide physical supports for individuals with mobility issues.