A user on TikTok has gone viral after sharing their experience of getting kicked out of a store for bringing in their service animal.
For context, a service animal is different from a “therapy” or “emotional support” animal. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act website, service animals are “trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability.” This can include providing guiding services for people who are visually impaired, allergen detection for those with food sensitivities, and more.
These animals typically receive incredible amounts of training; as such, they have a wide array of legal protections that other animals, emotional support or otherwise, do not. Among these protections is the permission to enter areas typically restricted to animals, with no documentation or service vest required.
Despite this appearing to be relatively straightforward, many working in public-facing businesses do not know these rules—and as a result, they can cause issues for those with service animals. One recent example of this went viral after being shared by TikTok user Sadie Kosenko (@affinityk9academy).
In her video, which currently has over 2.4 million views, Kosenko records an interaction with someone who is kicking her out of a grocery store for having a “pet,” despite her insistence that it is a service animal.
Kosenko spends the length of the video explaining what her service animal does. Regardless, the staff member continues to ask her questions, such as, “How do I know you have a disability?”
Per the ADA’s website, staff are only allowed to ask two questions regarding a service animal: “(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”
“Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability,” the website continues. The staff member violated this last point, which may explain why Kosenko’s caption for the video was, “Long story short, does anyone know of any good discrimination lawyers in Tulsa?”
In the comments, Kosenko noted that the “cops said to sue.”
@affinityk9academy Long story short, does anyone know of any good discrimination lawyers in Tulsa? #accessibility #accessissue #servicedog #servicedoglife #disabledbusinessowner #workingk9 #tulsaoklahoma #dogtraining #dobetter #easymoneybaby️💸 #lawyersoftiktok ♬ original sound – Sadie Kosenko
Some commenters expressed confusion at the lack of documentation for the dog.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to just have paperwork for the dog? Not specifically you and the disability but that she’s a certified service dog,” said a commenter.
“There should be a card that the owner carries that’s says she is a service dog. So many people say that and their dog is not service dog,” added another.
However, Kosenko was quick to counter by pointing viewers to ADA rules, which show that her right to be accompanied by her service animal without documentation and without justifying her disability is legally protected—meaning that, no matter how one feels about the situation, the staff member was legally in the wrong.
Commenters with service animals noted similar issues in their lives.
“Went through this last week. Mine detects irregular or dangerous heart rates. I just told him to call the police, and kept [shopping],” explained a commenter.
“I work security for A LOT of events. We are allowed to ask two questions: 1)Is this a service animal? 2)What tasks does that animal perform? That’s it,” detailed a second.
The Daily Dot reached out to Kosenko via TikTok direct message.
Update 12:28pm CT Jan. 8: In a TikTok DM conversation with the Daily Dot, Kosenko explained why documentation isn’t the solution many think it is.
“There is no official certification or documentation available in the United States,” she explained. “A lot of people have, or know someone who has, purchased a registration card online to ‘certify’ their pets as service or emotional support animals. These typically cost between $50-100, and have absolutely zero legal standing.”
“The problem is that they DO work,” she continued. “Most landlords accept these as proof that your pet is exempt from pet fees and no pet policies. Store employees get one look at an official looking ID card and let you go on about your business. But then, when the next dog comes in, more than likely a legitimate service dog without an ID card, the store employees or landlord, expect them to have one of these scam ID cards. Before I started recording my interaction with the security guard at the store, he specifically stated that every other service dog he’s allowed to shop has had an ID card or paperwork and if I don’t have it, my dog is just a pet and can’t be in the store.”
“I could easily fork up the money for an ID card, or even make my own and print it out to avoid future confrontations, but that would be unethical because the next legitimate service dog team would have a similar experience to the one I just had,” she noted. “If any service dog handler wants a tangible card that they can hand to someone asking questions about their dog, I recommend getting or making ADA FAQ cards to carry. They sell them in large packs on Amazon, but I know many talented handlers that make their own, or make custom cards for commission.”
The answer, she says, lies in staff training.
“Personally, I believe that there should be a federally mandatory inclusion training for every employee working in a store-front, restaurant, event, etc. (really just any job in which you may interact with the general public),” she shared. “This wouldn’t solely include training about service dogs, but disabilities in general, and I believe we could push to include sensitivity training for a variety of other marginalized and commonly excluded people groups at the same time.”
“Just like a food handlers license is mandatory for all employees who handle food, employees should be able to take a test online and get certified before working with customers,” she stated. “It should not be so expensive that it puts a hardship on any business or individual employee. I think a food handlers license is less than 10 bucks, which feels like a reasonable cost.”