Clothing store apologizes after incident with woman and her service dog in Sudbury
A Sudbury woman says she was discriminated against after bringing her service dog into a clothing store.
Victoria Chellew was looking to buy a new pair of shoes at Ardene, when she said she was confronted by a store manager who said she needed permission.
Chellew has had a service dog for years to help with anxiety. She was trying on shoes when a manager told her that the next time she comes in, she has to check with her first.
"To me I was kind of shocked when she did that because I've never had someone do that before," Chellew said. "She was just kind of extremely rude about it and my friend was shocked, too."
An upset Chellew left the store without buying anything.
Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, a service dog must be identifiable with a vest and a handler can be asked for documentation.
Don't have to ask for permission
But asking for permission is something entirely different.
"People need to understand that it's not always my choice to have a dog there to help me," Chellew said.
Paralympian Victoria Nolan said Chellew's experience is part of a bigger issue. Nolan has even encountered these problems herself with her guide dog, Alan.
"I don't understand what the missing piece is here, how people don't know that it is the law that a person with a guide dog can go anywhere the general public can go," Nolan said.
Rob Dimeglio, of Independent Living Sudbury Manitoulin, said the situation is disappointing but he hopes this will serve as an educational opportunity.
"Government has to give us … government issued ID for service animals -- that would be my wish, so store owners would be able to receive a government-issued ID for the service animal," Dimeglio said.
Ardene has apologized for this incident, sending a statement to CTV.
"Not only do we respect the rights of our customers, but we also believe that fashion should be inclusive and welcoming to all. Our customer service team is in the process of reaching out to Ms. Chellew directly for a formal apology. In addition, we have launched an internal investigation and will take appropriate action to ensure incidents like these do not happen again in the future."
For her part, Chellew said all she wants is for people to be aware that these dogs are here for a reason.
"And I just hope that next time they ensure that all members of staff that are in charge … know what's right and wrong to prevent mistakes like this from happening in the future," she said.
There are several types of dogs that can work to meet a persons physical or emotional needs. The CNIB said Ontario is one of only five Canadian jurisdictions where a disabled individual can call police if they feel they are being denied access.