Johnson City woman claims she was improperly asked about service

Johnson City woman claims she was improperly asked about service dog

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JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) - For the past two months Natacha Trammell, of Johnson City, and her service dog, Tye, have traveled around the Tri-Cities with no problem. It wasn't until this past weekend Trammell said she was denied service at a store unless she took her dog outside.

In 2013 a Tennessee law changed, to match the federal law, which is supposed to make it easier for people who use service dogs to get around. Despite this, some people, including Trammell, say they are being improperly questioned.

Military veteran and mother of two, Natacha Trammell, has had her service dog, Tye, for two months.

"He's my lifesaving buddy, without him I wouldn't, I would not be here today, would not," said Trammell.

Trammell suffers from Type 1 Diabetes and a condition called Chiari Malformation, causing the entire left side of her body to go numb. Tye can detect, by smell, when Trammell's sugar levels are at an extreme and can also pick up things that her owner has dropped, because of little movement on her left side. Because of this, where Trammell goes, Tye is at her side, including to get her hair cut.

Trammell recalled Saturday, March 8th, "so I went to Great Clips, got everybody out of the car, and I walked in the front door."

It was then Trammell said she was discriminated against by a Great Clips employee.

"'I am sorry we don't allow animals in here.  You need to get your animal out'. So I said 'no he's a service dog'," said Trammell.

Trammell said Tye was wearing a red vest that says: service dog, but according to Trammell she said employees wanted to see more.

Trammell told News Channel 11, employees said, "I need to see paperwork that he's a service dog."

In 2013 a change in Tennessee law ended a requirement that forced disabled people to produce documents about their dogs or their disability.

"It is illegal for business employees to ask service dog users for documentation about whether their dog is indeed a service animal," said Francisca Guzman with Disability Law and Advocacy Center of Tennessee.

Trammell said the employee told her, "she was following Great Clips corporate rules", and then added, "if we don't see paperwork we're not going to be able to treat you."

Many who use a service dog don't carry around any kind of documentation, but Trammell has a card in her wallet that states Tye is a certified service dog.

The card states they "have access to all public places and commercial carriers is protected under the federal law."

According Guzman, employees can ask one question. "The only thing that they may ask is whether the dog is a service animal." She added, "under health department codes they can't have animals in, but that does not apply to service animals just as it wouldn't apply to somebody for example who uses a wheelchair."

After visiting the location off People's Street, Trammell went to their Market Street location where she got a hair cut and her dog, Tye, sat beside her.

News Channel 11 reached out to Great Clips for a comment and franchise owner Elizabeth Gartner said, in a statement, her employees asked questions because the service dog was a non-traditional breed. Gartner added, "Given the reports from Ms. Trammell regarding her visit we are evaluating our training programs to ensure they meet all required criteria and support those with special needs."

In a letter written by Trammell she is asking for an apology from Great Clips. Attached with the letter is a copy of the American with Disabilities Act and a list of different types of service dogs.


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