Currituck County, NC - Afghanistan war veteran Greg Hedrick and his service dog Trusty were denied access to a Currituck County public building on Tuesday night because of the service dog.
According to WAVY 10, Hedrick and Trusty showed up at the Currituck County Community Center on Tuesday night to watch his son play basketball. Instead, they were turned away. Hedrick said that they were about two feet through the door when a gym employee, who was not named, told him that he couldn't bring Trusty in because they had just put down new floors.
Hedrick lost his leg on a recovery mission on September 20, 2012, in Afghanistan. His truck was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade that left one dead and four injured. He lost his left leg, spent almost three years in hospitals and rehabs, and endured 67 surgeries. Now, he has a prosthetic leg and a service dog.
Hedrick said "with what happened Tuesday, it was horrible. I felt embarrassed and humiliated." He said that he tried to explain to the gym employee that he was allowed to come into the gym. He said “what he didn’t know, the individual who is accompanied by a service dog, the service dog is able to accompany the person anywhere he goes.”
Hedrick said that he wasn't able to convince the gym employee who then called his boss, Parks and Recreation Director Jason Weeks. The director told the gym employee to let Hedrick and Trusty in but to have them sit on the bleachers near the door, so the dog didn't scratch the new basketball court surface. He said that he was also told that the next time that they came to the gym that Trusty would have to wear booties.
Weeks said that they had never had this situation before. Weeks, who admitted ignorance about the law said, "We have had wheelchairs, but not service dogs, we had just refinished our floor, and as Director of Parks and Recreation, I had concerns about my floor.”
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act states that a business, such as the Currituck County Community Center, "cannot refuse admittance, isolate, segregate, or treat a person less favorably than other patrons." The law also states that a service animal can only be removed from a place if the dog is out of control, or poses a threat. Neither was the case in this situation.
Hedrick said that a Currituck County Commissioner, who was not named, had reached out to him but that he didn't appreciate parts of the approach. He didn't mention details of that conversation but said that he had told the Commissioner not to contact him again.
Dan Scanlon, County Manager for Currituck County, said they "goofed" and that "there are no excuses." He said that “Mr. Hedrick should have been given unfettered access to the gym without asking any questions about his need for the service animal, because at that stage, that really is not our concern. He should have been treated the same as anyone else who came in to watch the basketball game.” He said that immediate education on federal law for service dogs is needed for county workers.
Scanlon went on to say that they had talked with the County Attorney and the ADA and that they had not handled the situation well. He said that they had apologized. The gym employee has since resigned. Weeks said that he accepts full responsibility for what happened. Hedrick said in response that he just wanted to make sure people were educated about war veterans and their service dogs.
Regardless of what the Federal Law says, this hero should have never been denied entry. A war veteran who lost a leg in service for his country and he was denied the opportunity to see his son play basketball, all because of fear of minor cosmetic scratches a new gym floor.
Thank you for your service, Greg Hedrick.
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