On Memorial Day, Jeff Scott took a rare outing with his girlfriend, Sandy Bond, and his dog, Candy. Just a few blocks from Scott's Old Colorado City house, Territory Days had been raging all weekend, and Scott wanted to check out the bands.
Now, most dogs aren't allowed at Territory Days. But there's always an exception for canines like Candy. She's a service dog and helps Scott, a 54-year-old who has disabilities and walks with a cane.
The Americans with Disabilities Act specifies that service dogs can go anywhere with their owners and are not required to wear an identifying vest. Candy doesn't. They're not required to have ID, though Candy has one. The only questions anyone can ask of someone with a service dog: "Is that a service dog?" and, "What services does it perform?"
But Scott says that despite the law, he was harassed at Territory Days and told to leave by multiple police officers and youth volunteers for the department, who said he needed paperwork to prove Candy's status. Scott remembers one officer, in particular, telling him, "You understand my position, this is not my problem; it's yours."
Scott was disgusted. "If you're a cop, you should know [the law]," he says. "It should just be standard knowledge."
Both Scott and Bond attest to what happened that day, but cannot remember officers' names. Scott says he has contacted the police department; Police Sgt. Steve Noblitt couldn't immediately confirm Scott's story because he couldn't reach the sergeant on duty that day. Noblitt does say that officers don't receive specific training on legal requirements regarding service dogs.
For Scott, who is private about his disability, the incident was "demeaning."
Up until 2005, Scott was used to helping other people in his career as a nurse. But a work-related incident left him with a closed head injury, and he was declared disabled in 2006. He has memory impairment, ambulation issues, pain, seizures and other problems.
The transition to not working affected not only his body and mind, but his pride. He doesn't like being treated as "disabled." That's why Candy, a golden retriever, doesn't wear a vest.
"My whole life has been dedicated to helping people," Scott says. "I was a Boy Scout, a Vietnam-era veteran ... I don't want to be treated any different."
Candy helps Scott lead the most normal life he can. She helps pull him along, alerts him before he has a seizure, and guards him.
Most people don't question Candy's role. But some do; he says he's been accosted by a couple convenience-store clerks, for instance. "I worry that I'm going to go in a place and be physically thrown out," he says.
But Scott isn't taking all this lying down. He's encouraging others to go to the "Candy Scott" Facebook page and share their feelings or stories. He's also made copies of an ADA form. The next time he's harassed, he says, he'll send complaints to all levels of government and media.
"Get in my face," he says, "and I'll get in your life."
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