Category Archives: ADA Rights

Update from Andrew, and Service Dog “Ender”.

A wonderful update from our former client, Andrew, with his Service Dog “Ender”. Andrew is a Crime Prevention Specialist with his County Police Department in Virginia! He is completely dedicated to educating the community about the value of Service Dogs. What a WONDERFUL gift he is giving back! Here is his latest email to us:

Hi Laurie,

Ender and I have now spoken to 4 groups about Service Dogs (definitions, some training requirements, their uses, access permissions, etc.) The first two groups were at a State convention of High School Students that are focusing on entering either human or animal medicine. Out of that, we were asked to speak at a Vocational school that teaches students to become Vet Techs. We have now educated around 150 people with this information. There’s no way that I could handle the groups size without Ender. Of course with his sweet personality and temperament, he really helps build connections and relationships. I am forwarding the email that the instructor from yesterday sent along with two pictures that she took. As you can see, I think we made some progress. I hope that they’ll benefit from the training.

Best Wishes,

“We need the community to be our eyes and ears. We are the hands and feet. Together we can speak with one voice”

Good afternoon, Andrew

Thank you so much for coming in today and speaking to the students. They thoroughly enjoyed it and they learned a great deal. You and Ender are making a difference and you are a great advocate for the service animal. I would love to help out at any point with fundraisers or public events to help educate the public. My students would be interested in any type of public awareness that we can do to support such a wonderful cause. I have attached the photos from today.

I would greatly appreciate it if you would forward me an address in which we can send some words of gratitude. Have a great evening.

Thank you,.
Angela F, LVT
Valley Career and Technical Center
Veterinary Assistant Instructor

Update from Andrew and SD Ender

A wonderful update from our past client, Andrew, who works as a Crime Prevention Specialist with the Police Department in Virginia, and his Service Dog, Ender!

Dear Laurie,
Ender is doing great! We keep a regular training regimen just so that he stays up to par. He’s still a local celebrity! In fact, our local Starbucks has made him their unofficial mascot! It’s one of his favorite places to go, and it forces me to go out the house and interact at some level with people. (I threw away my coffee pot for this reason as well.) I’m attaching a picture of him there. We actually had his birthday party there in December. I was asked to speak to our local American Legion the other day about Service Dogs. They want to raise funds for local veterans in need of one. Out of that, I (we) were asked to do two presentations next Saturday in Williamsburg, for students entering the medical field, about the benefits of Service dogs. It wouldn’t be possible to do without Ender’s help! I’m a little anxious about it, but I got them to break the students up into small groups and schedule breaks for Ender and I.

Thank you again!


Rita and SD Serene Denied Access

The below was sent to local news networks:  (See the news stories at the end of this blog)

“My name is Laurie Gawelko, M.S., and I am the CEO and Founder of Service Dog Express, LLC, in San Antonio. We train rescue dogs to become Service Dogs for Wounded Warriors and civilians with all disabilities except for the blind. We opened in 2011, and have 21 trainers. We have paired over 300 clients with Service Dogs through professional training since our inception.

I am writing with the hope that you will follow up on this very important news about a restaurant that denied access to one of our clients with several severe disabilities. I have called the restaurant several times to try and get their side of the story, but they have not returned my call. My client actually had to go to Emergency Room after the incident because her blood pressure was raised to extremely dangerous levels.

Ms. Rita Abrego and her Service Dog, Selene, went to Herradero Mexican Restaurant with her daughter and a friend and were ordered immediately to leave by the owner because the owner claimed he is “allergic to dogs and dogs are not allowed in the restaurant”. They actually told her to put the dog in the car. Ms. Abrego attempted to explain that Selena (wearing her clearly marked Service Dog vest) is allowed at any public place according to ADA law, to no avail. The owner also instructed her servers not to serve her.

Ms. Abrego then called the police and filed a report, but the police said there was nothing they could do because it was private property. Police report # 20150164772. The police, who usually know ADA law, did not know this law. The restaurant is not considered private property. Service Dogs are allowed ANYWHERE except military installations and places of worship unless they agree to have them there.

The police did see that Ms. Abrego was getting extremely red in the face and sweating profusely and shaking, and offered to escort her to the ER. She had her friend take her instead, because she was so appalled by the police’s lack of awareness of ADA law regarding Service Dogs.

I would TRULY appreciate it if you would consider doing an investigative story on this, which would include mentioning the restaurant that refused my client.

With my assistance, Ms. Abrego is also going to follow through with trying to sue the restaurant.

Thank you.

KSAT: Woman denied service at restaurant because of Service Dog

WOAI: Woman denied service for bringing Service Dog to restaurant


Service Dog is Harassed by Police

Service Dog is Harassed by Police: Please watch the video.

It happened at the home of our client, Gilbert, one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. He has a Service Dog that is fully trained name “Solea”. I helped train her. Gilbert had severe agoraphobia, and Solea has helped him start to live a normal life. The police showed up at the door as Gilbert’s mother was coming home. They were searching for Gilbert’s sister, who had a warrant for her arrest. She does not even live with Gilbert and his mother. Gilbert said there were 6 officers there, all with guns pointed. He posted it on youtube, and sent it to us. It made me cry. You can bet the Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office will be hearing from me. We responded to Gilbert and asked him the following questions, and here are Gilbert’s replies:

1. What emotions were you going through during the encounter and after the encounter? Gilbert – “I was extremely upset/scared/nervous for us – me and Solea – before we could even step out.”

2. How did Solea help you cope? Gilbert – “She helped me stay as calm as I could under the circumstances of me almost losing her to the ignorance of these officers.”

3. What happened to you and Solea once you exited the home; ie – how did the officers treat you and Solea after the incident? Gilbert – “After we exited the house, a Captain continued to harass and verbally attack me, once again, Solea begins to bark because she can sense my anxiety and she’s protecting me; we have to remember these deputies had guns out and were wearing black vests outside their clothes.” Ironically – the Lieutenant that was the last to leave “apologized” for the Captain’s behavior.

4. How many people were outside your home and in what capacity? Gilbert: “There were 6 officers – all had their weapons drawn and pointed at us.”

5. Who was at home with you and Solea? Gilbert: “My mom and brother.”

There will be more footage of this tomorrow. Apparently, a detective had been out the day before and scoured the home, and was completely aware of the fact that Solea was a Service Dog. Gilbert is filing a complaint against the Captain that continued to harass him and Solea afterward, and is going to press criminal charges for harassment of a Service Dog and Service Dog handler, as well as a code that Gilbert looked up that states that in the state of Texas, if a Service Dog is Harassed or hurt in any way, the person responsible for that action is responsible for any rehabilitation that the Service Dog needs after this traumatization. Gilbert said that Solea is definitely showing signs of trauma.

I think this is definitely worth pressing charges for and alerting the media. Gilbert is handling it, despite his severe anxiety, like a true professional. I am so proud of him. – Laurie

Wounded Warrior Jason and SD Cadence

Meet Wounded Warrior, Jason, who is recovering at Audie Murphy Poly-trauma Care Rehab after a motor vehicle accident. Jason already was on his way to be discharged to PTSD and TBI from several deployments. He just loves Boxers, and Amy, (now renamed “Cadence”), has been adopted by Jason as his Service Dog. Amy has already passed her Public Access Test with a former handler who could no longer keep Cadence, so our trainer Pat truly has to do is ensure that Jason and Cadence bond and that Cadence learns to walk successfully next to Jason’s wheelchair (he will not be in it once his leg heals), and to make sure that Cadence and Jason are able to learn as a team to do the Public Access Test together.

Currently, Jason’s doctor has not given the “OK” for him to have Cadence with him in his room while he heels, but I will speak to the doctor on Monday about this. Four months is a long time, and it would be perfect time for them to bond. It is strange, because this particular new hospital is huge, but there are only eight patients – all of whom are simply recovering and have no open wounds – and all eight patients want Cadence there all the time because she cheers them up! Cadence is allowed in the hospital with Pat, our trainer…so we will see!

In the meantime, Pat has been so kindly fostering and training Cadence herself, taking her to Walmart and all other places, where Cadence is still the same, wonderful Service Dog she was a year ago! Pat evens trains Cadence with a wheelchair, so she can get used to Jason’s.

Jason is absolutely wonderful. He is pursuing his Master’s Degree, and will return home once he is healed in about four months with Cadence by his side. They already love each other!!

Click Here For The Video


Alex and SDiT Allie

From our wonderful trainer, Beverly, who began working with Alex, who suffers from severe anxiety and depression, and his SDIT, “Allie”.

“Allie is a super sweet dog who already goes many places with Alex, and has been his “emotional support” animal. Alex wants Allie to be a fully trained Service Dog to help with anxiety and panic attacks, bring him out of depressed moods, and remind him to take medications. Alex’s job as a realtor allows him to take Allie with him to most places, so she is already accustomed to “going to work.” During our training sessions, we discussed the importance of “high value treats” to get Allie to perform the necessary skills, especially when she is being a bit “stubborn”. We also discussed ADA laws, rules for Service Dogs, and the steps needed in the process for him and Allie to be a SD team. Alex will be training with both my son, Andrew and I to ensure we can get him through the process in a timely fashion. At our next session, we will work on the basic commands, such as “sit”, “down”, “stay”, and some fun games to engage Allie in play.”

Great story of empowerment

A great story of empowerment by our client Brian and his SD Faith. He is leaning forwarding, ensuring access rights of all handlers and their beloved Service Dogs.

“Hi Laurie, I had already been let into the Copper Top restaurant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama when one of the security/doormen came up to me and my dog from the back and said “You and your dog will have to leave. ” He said something to the effect of “You don’t even need that dog.” I’ve been in this place several times with absolutely no problems with my SD Faith – even the doorman before recognized me and Faith and had absolutely no problems. I had the business card from the DOJ that had all of the laws about Service Dogs, and I asked him to please read them. He said he wasn’t reading anything, and that we needed to get out and get out now.

I asked “let’s not take this to that point that I have to call the police.” He seemed very hostile from the start, and, of course this made him even more hostile. He also made a comment that I did not need a Service Dog because I was in there the night before without one. That was because Faith had surgery several days before and was not up to going out, of course. As you and I know my medical condition and my Service Dog’s medical condition is none of his business.

Sadly enough, I did call the police and they took the restaurant’s side! Two officers from the Tuscaloosa City Police Department came and said that any private business could kick anybody out for any condition whatsoever. They called the next officer in charge, and he had the same attitude! He asked what he could do to make me happy and asked if he would please just read the laws!

All of this was this past Friday night approximately 8:30 PM (Nov 28th). On Monday, I called Lieutenant M. at the Tuscaloosa Police Department – he also said any private business can kick anyone out it anytime regardless of having a Service Dog or any type of disability!

My Service Dog, Faith has been a complete Savior to me since I’ve gotten her! She’s done nothing but help me along the way; I couldn’t get along without her. I’ve been completely depressed and had anxiety attacks ever since this is happened!!! I feel that she and I are going to be a target anywhere we go!! I’m afraid to take her anywhere because I feel I am going to be run out of every little business that I go into!!

I thought I was calling the police department for help, but yet they’re the ones who helped run me off and took the side of the other people who were kicking me out -and gave me false hope for me and anyone who is disabled or has a Service Dog! Not just with the doorman, Copper Top, Tuscaloosa, but everywhere.

I did talk to the Department of Justice on Monday, and the lady I spoke with did confirm that the Tuscaloosa Police Department and the Coppertop and Mr. Jones were in complete violation of the laws and would be sending me a packet in the mail ASAP.

UPDATE: 8 December 2014 – Brian met with the owner of Copper Top

The meeting went extremely well. The owner of Copper Top was great! It was entirely 1 employee trying to “Flex his muscle”! The owner was wanting details and was very apologetic and invited me and Faith back! He guaranteed he’d take care of the employee. Cherry (a Service Dog Express Trainer) was such great help on the phone the other day!! I had built up so much anxiety and depression since the incident, and she made me feel much better!!!! She provided me with tons of info! Thanks to all of you!! I am still going to schedule a meeting with the chief of police to try to get local laws in line with the ADA or to get them to realize their street level officers are not up to date on laws. Lastly, the owner mentioned us working together to find a charity to help fund together !!!! Who would’va thought?


Vietnam Veteran, Jacky

Another wonderful update from Vietnam Veteran, Jacky, who did our long-distance training program from New Hampshire solidly for over one year, sending videos of every training session, every Public Access command, and more! This is what she wrote!!! Of course, the manager had no right to ask for Seeley’s papers, but the Service Dog gave the papers to the manager himself!!

“Dear Laurie:
I thought I would send an update on the latest news. We are traveling south to Patrick AFB, FL in our RV. Today, we made it to Meriden, CT and stayed at the Comfort Inn right off Interstate 91S. Seeley had to show all his Service Dog papers to the manager. I have him trained to give his pouch to another person, which he did! I don’t think the manager expected such a well behaved dog!

I am so proud of Seeley. What a big difference from last year’s trip south.

My best to you.

Jacky and Seeley, a Service Dog Express graduate!!!!

Daniel, Stubby and Cherry

From our marvelous trainer, Cherry, who is training with Wounded Warrior, Daniel!

“Today we had a great first session with Daniel, Stubby and me.

Daniel recently lost his beloved Service Dog Ivan, so after searching shelters and pounds, I suggested he train Ivan’s brother, Stubby.
Daniel had already done a lot of work with Stubby; he was very good at “sit”, “down”, and is learning to “stay”.

We talked for quite a bit discussing ADA laws, as it was still a murky area for Daniel. I explained what businesses are allowed to ask and what they are not. I also told him I would give him a copy of the laws to keep with him at all times so he can show anyone who is uninformed on the matter. Daniel was really pleased with that idea!

Daniel mentioned that he didn’t like people approaching to pet Stubby, so I taught him how to teach Stubby to ‘Watch me”. This will engage Stubby with Daniel and people can also see that Stubby is working. He really loved that idea, too, and wants that to be one of the three tasks for Stubby.

We then discussed “Cover”, and I showed Daniel the quickest way to teach a dog to not only stand in front to cover, but also to press right into his legs for emotional support.I also explained how dogs learn to switch on and off from pet to Service Dog and how they know to pay attention in those times when they are working.

By the end of our hour, Daniel was feeling optimistic and cheerful. Knowing what he’d learned in just that hour made him want to take Stubby out more often. I said I wanted a picture of him and Stubby for Service Dog Express, but he insisted I stood in on the picture! I was very flattered!.. I looked awful and if I’d known I was going to be photographed I’d have changed my shirt from accidentally spilling a drink on myself on my way to his house!

I am so impressed with Daniel; he has a wonderful, supportive family who also made me welcome in their home while I was there.
Good job Daniel and Stubby!

Tony and his incredible Service Dog, Lucy

I had to share this beautiful photo of our dear, dear client and former trainer, Tony and his incredible Service Dog, Lucy. Tony will be moving soon and we will miss him. He has done so much for SDE and has been a model example of the perfect Service Dog handler I can imagine. He is struggling with many health issues, but Lucy is alerting more and more. Tony’s beautiful daughter sent this picture.