By CRAIG FREILICH
COLTON -- A settlement with Boyce’s General Store has given Jon Sabin of Colton a victory in his continuing battle to win acceptance of his service dog as a helper he needs to stay alive.
Sabin and Boyce’s owners Ed and Brenda Boyce signed an agreement earlier this month negotiated by the New York State Division of Human Rights whereby Sabin and his dog can go into Boyce’s and he will be treated as any other customer.
The agreement requires that the store put up a sign at the entrance saying “Service Animals are Welcome.”
And, the agreement says, employees at the store will be informed of provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Sabin, who has sustained multiple brain injuries beginning with his days playing hockey, through a training accident while he was in the military, and fights while he was a private investigator –“an occupational hazard” says Sabin – suffers from seizures which debilitate him while they are happening.
He has a dog trained to tell him when a seizure is imminent, so whenever he goes out, the dog goes with him.
The disagreement began when he took the dog with him to his local store, Boyce’s, and owner Ed Boyce allegedly objected to the dog being in the store.
Thus began the latest chapter in his long effort to raise awareness about the value to him of his service dog, and to convince authorities that service dogs are as vital to many people as are seeing-eye dogs to people who can’t see, and that the dogs should have the same accommodation in the law as seeing-eye dogs.
At one time Sabin was having as many as 50 seizures a day. He had experience training dogs and learned that some dogs can sense seizures. So he trained a dog to hit a “lifeline” button that would place a call to his father, who lives nearby, if a seizure was beginning.
“He bites on the phone case, and rolls me onto my side so I don’t asphyxiate,” Sabin said.
He is continuing to try to raise awareness of the issue. He has won the backing of the Colton Town Council, which Sabin says issued a “trained service dog” designation.
Another part of his quest is to get the service dog question rationalized in state and federal law.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires the acceptance of service dogs in public places, and businesses open to the public.
But state law requires that service dogs be trained through certified service dog training center.
But in New York, Sabin says, “there is no service dog czar who can say ‘I now declare you a service dog.’
“The state laws don’t comply with the federal law, and they’re making it up as they go along,” he says.