‘Every­body wants the free­dom of move­ment’

Deer Lake grand­mother says ser­vice an­i­mal leg­is­la­tion and reg­u­la­tions need to be clar­i­fied


Free­dom of move­ment is a fun­da­men­tal right that Janet Butt is con­cerned is be­ing taken away from her grand­son.

Last Thurs­day the Deer Lake woman was at the Cor­ner Brook Wal­mart with her 10-year-old grand­son Mav­er­ick Butt and his ser­vice dog, Ab­ner, when an em­ployee asked what the dog was do­ing there.

Butt ex­plained he was a ser­vice dog and was work­ing. The ex­pla­na­tion wasn’t enough for the em­ployee who de­manded the pa­per­work to show he was a le­git­i­mate ser­vice dog even though Ab­ner was wear­ing a vest that iden­ti­fied him as such.

The dis­cus­sion up­set Mav­er­ick, who is on the autism spec­trum, so much that Butt’s hus­band had to take him out of the store.

Butt feels the re­sponse she got from the store man­age­ment that day was not ad­e­quate and said de­spite go­ing pub­lic with her story, Wal­mart has made no ef­forts to con­tact her.

The com­pany posted a re­sponse to her daugh­ter, Shan­non Butt’s, Face­book page. While it says ser­vice an­i­mals are per­mit­ted to en­ter Wal­mart stores as com­pan­ions to cus­tomers with dis­abil­i­ties, and of­fered an apol­ogy, Butt said it did noth­ing to an­swer her ques­tions and con­cerns about the in­ci­dent with re­spect to pol­icy and pro­to­col.

“We don’t want to be go­ing out and stopped ev­ery time some­one wants to be de­mand­ing pa­pers be­cause they don’t ac­cept the jacket,” she said.

She said it’s ridicu­lous and in­sult­ing that her grand­son has got to be iden­ti­fied as dis­abled.

“When they start giv­ing them­selves the per­mis­sion to be in­tol­er­ant don’t talk in­clu­sion to me.”

Butt said she plans to con­tact her MHA, Pre­mier Dwight Ball, to voice her con­cerns and opin­ion that the leg­is­la­tion and reg­u­la­tions around ser­vice an­i­mals needs to be clar­i­fied.

“Be­cause every­body wants the free­dom of move­ment. To go about their lives free from be­ing stopped,” she said.

The Ser­vice An­i­mal Act says a per­son with a dis­abil­ity can­not be de­nied ac­cess to ac­com­mo­da­tion, ser­vices or fa­cil­i­ties avail­able in a place to which the pub­lic is cus­tom­ar­ily ad­mit­ted or be dis­crim­i­nated against with re­spect to ac­cess to those for the rea­son that the per­son is ac­com­pa­nied by a ser­vice an­i­mal.

There are no train­ing and qual­i­fi­ca­tions pre­scribed by law for ser­vice an­i­mals in this prov­ince. The New­found­land and Labrador Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion says that in the ab­sence of such reg­u­la­tions, there is no obli­ga­tion to en­sure that the an­i­mal has any spe­cific qual­i­fi­ca­tions.


Mav­er­ick Butt is shown here with his ser­vice dog Ab­ner.

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