Wendy, the Service Cat

Jeff Ward is a disabled vet who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. So he got himself a service animal: Wendy the cat.

And now, he's suing a gym for not letting him bring Wendy to accompany him:

Earlier this week Ward attempted to take Wendy to his new gym, Lifetime Fitness on RR 620. He said he was stopped by the general manager. "He came down and said they weren't going to accommodate my pet. I said she's not a pet she's a service animal. He refused to believe that, he laughed at me," Ward said. Ward did bring Wendy, on her leash and harness, to his initial tour of the facility when he joined the previous week.

Lifetime Fitness defends its manager's actions, saying Ward stormed out before they could come to an agreement. "Mr. Ward launched a verbal attack laden with profanity and demanded that his membership be cancelled," Lifetime Fitness Director of Corporate Communications Jason Thunstrom said.

Ward said he has yet to see a refund, but feels the principle is more important than the money. "I'm part of the first wave of guys returning, and I'm having to make sure the guys that come behind me don't have to deal with the problems I'm dealing with," Ward said.

Link - Thanks Kimi!

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the new ADA allowing service cats excerpt here.
In the NPRM, the Department used the term "common domestic animal" in the service animal definition and excluded reptiles, rabbits, farm animals (including horses, miniature horses, ponies, pigs, and goats), ferrets, amphibians, and rodents from the service animal definition. 73 FR 34508, 34553 (June 17, 2008). However, the term "common domestic animal" is difficult to define with precision due to the increase in the number of domesticated species. Also, several State and local laws define a "domestic" animal as an animal that is not wild.

The Department is compelled to take into account the practical considerations of certain animals and to contemplate their suitability in a variety of public contexts, such as restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, and performing arts venues, as well as suitability for urban environments. The Department agrees with commenters´ views that limiting the number and types of species recognized as service animals will provide greater predictability for public accommodations as well as added assurance of access for individuals with disabilities who use dogs as service animals. As a consequence, the Department has decided to limit this rule´s coverage of service animals to dogs, which are the most common service animals used by individuals with disabilities.
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I have a service cat and let me tell you I think you are the most ignorant dumb people that have ever thought about service animals let me correct all of you on your ignorance. The ADA is the law NO EXCUSEs. in the ada your service animal must do tasks to mitigate your disability. If the cat does that then it is a service cat! I have PTSD and I am not a vet but seeing my mother and my brother almost beaten to death by my father every god damn day it can do that to you. So dont give me that bull that it isnt real just because you dont have the pleasure of being raped by your own parent doesnt mean that mental illness isnt real. I have taken my service cat with me where ever it goes it mitigates my disability it is NOT a pet! which is why i dont have to pay a pet fee in my apartment for her. Now him saying buffering might be one of the things she does for him but that alone is probably not what she does because that will not stand up in court. Its ignorant people like you that dont understand that you have to let my cat in and i will call the police on you if you dont. it is my job to educate you about service animals unfortunately. I will say that if any of you own a buisness and tell me that you will not allow my PSD friends and my PSC. I will call all of them and show up at your door demanding that you let us in and then if you dont i will call the police and you will go to court and have to pay fees and fines for not letting me in. I just cannot say how much reading this infuriates me. You all are a disgrace to humanity and the vetran who said PTSD isnt real i dont believe you should be allowed in the military with your stupid attitude your the military people that i look at and all i see is an ass whole i hope you all get taught a lesson sometime soon about the disabled people!!!!!
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As a disabled person who has been in similar situations, I find it easier to just leave the location. I then call the store owner and ask him/her what his policy is regarding the situation. When he/she agrees with what happened I point out that denying access to a disabled person with or without a companion animal is a violation of the ADA law. I usually then suggest an immediate fix for the situation. I then go on to suggest sensitivity training for his/hers employees. If the owner still seems to believe they are right I inform him/her that a complaint will be made to the Department of Justice with details of the incident. I then do just that. The DOJ investigates by usually having someone who is disabled go to the business and if any violation exist the owner will be cited. The owner may have to shut down while making the necessary renovations etc. They may have to go to court as well and could face prison and or fines as well. Some businesses have been shut down permanently. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
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Below is a comment by Neatorama reader BV, who asked me to post this lengthy comment:

I’m not a professional by any means on medical issues such as the man in the article however some of the people that are remarking on him are down right ignorant, whether by uneducated or by just the oddness of the sounding of the story because it’s a CAT.

Let me start off by explaining a little bit about service animals.
Q: What are the laws that apply to my business?
A: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.

The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?
Answer: Some, BUT NOT ALL, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, BUT NOT ALL, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. However, an individual who is going to a restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, such documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.

Service Animal Registry of America (SARA) registers and certifies service dogs, therapy dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, and all other species of service (assistance) and therapy animals, including: service dogs, therapy dogs, service cats, therapy cats, service primates, therapy primates, service monkey, therapy monkey, service birds, therapy bird, service horses, service equine, therapy equine, and service dog.

“Gayla" February 15th, 2008 at 4:15 pm mentioned:
No, a service animal does not have to perform a task, but it should have IAADP Minimum Training Standards for Public Access (How a cat can get this is beyond me.)

Here is the answer to this, you might like to try it (website this comes from http://www.clickertraining.com/node/1776)….

Train a cat? You can't be serious! The idea of training cats is often met with a reaction of disbelief. Clicker training is perfect for cats, because the training agenda is in large part set by the animal being trained. Clicker training requires that the animal be a willing and equal partner in the training process—and cats wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, with clicker training the cat has the upper hand, since the cat must try to get the trainer to click.

Start with treats: The best treats for clicker training are those that can be broken into small pieces, can be eaten quickly, and can be tossed for the cat to chase. Cats love to play and pounce and will often work for the chance to play with a favorite toy. Use the toys your cat likes the best for training. During a training session, be sure to have two toys to play with so that you can entice the cat away from the first toy with the second if the cat does not want to give up the first.

Target training lays the groundwork: The best way to begin clicker training a cat is to teach it to touch a target with its nose. A plastic golf ball or a ping-pong ball on the end of a chopstick, pen, or wooden dowel makes a good target. Hold the target where the cat can see it and click/treat when the cat looks at the target. Click/treat any movement toward the target, and then click for actually touching the target. Work in short sessions at first. Take a break after four or five clicks even if the cat seems keen to continue. Pet or play with the cat, so that the cat does not feel punished when the session ends. After a few minutes, produce the target again and click/treat the cat for approaching, and eventually for touching, the target. Try giving the cue "touch" before the cat starts to approach the target to see if it understands the verbal cue. The sight of the target is also a cue to touch it, so it is a bit difficult at first to know if the cat understands the word.

Have a seat: Teach your cat to sit, another useful skill, by moving the target back toward the cat's tail so that the cat's head must come up slightly to touch the target. Click and treat any movement of the cat's rear end toward the ground. Eventually the cat will sit; click and treat when its rear end touches the ground. Add the verbal cue "sit" when the cat gets the idea. You can also hold a treat over the cat's nose and move the treat back slightly to lure the cat into a sitting position. Of course, you can just wait until the cat sits on its own (which it will do at some point during the day) and click/treat when you see the cat going into the sitting position naturally.

Sleight of hand: High five and wave are easy tricks to teach a cat that has learned the basics of target training. Hold the target a few inches above the cat's head, too high for it to touch with its nose. The cat will almost certainly extend a paw to try to bring the target to its nose. Click/treat just as the paw makes contact with the target. Move your hand down the shaft of the target, so that on each subsequent trial your hand is closer to the ball end of the target. Turn a high five into a wave by offering your hand for the cat to touch, and clicking/treating just before the cat actually touches the hand. Raise your hand higher and higher so that the cat cannot touch it, but will still try. Click/treat every attempt at first, and then click/treat only the highest waves. Add the verbal cue "wave" when the cat offers a good wave every time. Another way to teach a cat to wave is to dangle an interesting toy just out of reach, and click/treat when the cat tries to bat at the toy. This method may take longer if you have a cat that is more interested in playing with the toy than in winning a click/treat. If you have a cat that likes to play more than it likes a food treat, try using the toy as the reward, allowing the cat to play after you click.

Help around the house: Impress your friends by teaching your cat to close a drawer or cupboard. Build on your cat's previous experience with the high five to master this trick. A sticky note is a good choice as a target for the cat's paw in training the drawer closing trick. Place the sticky note on your palm and give the cat the "high five" cue. Click and treat when the cat touches the sticky note with its paw. Raise your hand so that the cat must stand to reach it, and raises both paws. After a few successes, place the sticky note between your thumb and forefinger and hold it out for the cat to touch with both paws; click and treat every touch. Cut the sticky note in half and repeat the process. The steps should go more quickly this time. Reduce the size of the sticky note again and repeat the training steps. Continue in this manner until the sticky note is so small that the cat cannot touch it with both paws, and, instead, is putting its paws on the drawer itself. Remove the sticky note altogether. Continue to click and treat every time the cat puts its paws on the drawer with enough pressure to move the drawer. Once the cat is offering to close the drawer every time you open it, you can add the verbal cue "close the drawer" as the cat offers the behavior. Repeat ten times and then try giving the cue before the cat offers the behavior on its own.

All in all, there are many things your cat can do, here are a few we have trained our kittens and now are cats to do – alert us when someone is at the door by running to the door and meowing at the door… when daughter has headache, the cat goes to her and lays next to her and purrs at her head, it gives a soothing vibration and makes the headache go away…. When daughter drops something, the cat picks it up via mouth to her lap or taps it to her feet so she can pick it up… as a kitten we bath the cat in water so it got use to being in water and isn’t frightened by it, it now goes in the bathtub and keeps daughters attention so she will not fall asleep in bath…. As a kitten we taught the cat to walk in public so when going into a public place, it can walk on the floor in a store just like a dog can….
TOILET TRAIN, yes that is right, we are litter box free – here is how we did it:
Get a mini litter box, get littler and a toilet seat, train the cat or kitten to sit on the seat and go, place it in the bathroom so it’s use to going in the bathroom. Now get a sitz bath with litter and place it inside the toilet. When placing litter in at this point, it’s going to be just enough to “dust” the bottom, as you will now add 10 holes in the bottom but no wider then your fist (explained later). Your cat will be moving the litter so you don’t want too much going in the toilet. Once you done this for about 3 days, make the hole about the size of your fist as now you’re cutting all the 10 holes out and now, not adding litter. In 3 days make the hole the size of the complete bottom, depending on the bottom of the sitz bath, it can be about 6 to 9 inches in average on the bottom. In 3 days now that your cat is completely doing it on his/her own, take out the sitz bath and you’re now LITTER FREE. Congratulations!

To sum this up, CATS CAN BE TAUGHT, and I admire Jeff Ward for suing the gym for not allowing him to bring Wendy with him. Dogs are NOT the only “trainable” animals out there, so please, before putting someone down, please EDUCATE YOURSELF!
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ADA Business BRIEF: Service Animals
Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks.

Yes they do need to do tasks. THe IAADP is a private organization that has created its own standards independent of the Federal and State Government requirements. Their standaards, while admirable really have no legal standing. I am a rehab professional so I deal this all the time.
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