Woman’s guide dog denied access despite new law
When Carson City resident Mary Yoshisato gets her mind set on something, she can’t be distracted.
So when she says she was denied access to a local store she became obsessed with doing something about it.
Yoshisato, who is legally blind, said that she and her guide dog were denied access to the Carson City Rite-Aid store on Nov. 28 despite repeated attempts to tell the Sunday morning manager that her dog is a “working dog” and legally permitted to enter.
According to Yoshisato, the manager refused her admittance because the store serves ice cream and health regulations prohibit any animals on the premises.
According to Nevada law, it is illegal to deny a dog that is performing services for a handicapped person entrance into the business. As of Nov. 1, denying a person and the dog access is a misdemeanor criminal offense.
The law states, “A place of accommodation may require proof that an animal is a guide dog, helping dog or other service animal, or that a person is training such an animal. This requirement may be satisfied, by way of example and not of limitation … .”
Yoshisato said in addition to showing the manager her dog’s abilities, she produced a certification card. When he insisted that her dog stay outside, she said she left and returned with a copy of the law. It was only when she called the sheriff’s department that the manager relented, she said.
Normally, she said, she doesn’t go out of her way to bring attention to herself or her struggle with blindness, but this situation goes back to the Dark Ages.
“It’s been like 40 or 50 years that seeing eye dogs have been allowed in businesses,” she said. “I want nothing more than to educate the public about the laws.”
Carson City Rite-Aid store manager Lee Lockhart (a different manager than the one that Yoshisato said she confronted) said the store has a policy of allowing working dogs in the accompaniment of their masters, but he would not comment further.
“We do not deny access to any seeing eye dogs and to the best of my knowledge we never have,” he said. He forwarded all other inquiries to the Rite-Aid corporate offices.
Jody Cook, company spokeswoman, said she was unaware of the situation but she was apologetic, offering to call Yoshisato to talk it over. “I’m sure that it was just a misunderstanding,” she said.
Yoshisato’s blindness is related to complications from her premature birth, but the symptoms did not start until she turned 40.
“I was in the Army during Vietnam,” she said. “This isn’t something that I have had to deal with my whole life.”
Now, more than 10 years later, Yoshisato says she has dealt with the increasing degradation of her sight by working to pass legislation that guarantees access to the blind and their working dogs.
She helped craft the bill that made it a misdemeanor crime to deny access to a disabled person and his or her dog in a public place. Under the previous law, it was a simple civil matter. The revised law also guarantees working dogs access to public workplaces.
Yoshisato figures that the newness of the law played a part in the sheriff’s department’s decision not to act immediately. She added that the manager in question after she called the sheriff’s department to the store offered to drop the matter and let her inside.
“While we were standing there, he ridiculed me for taking up some of his time on such an important Christmas shopping day,” she said. “It was too little too late.”
Her next step was to send a copy of the law and a complaint to Carson City District Attorney Noel Waters who promised he would decide whether or not to take action, she said. He was unavailable for comment on Tuesday or Wednesday.
“In more than six years, this is the first time that I’ve had this problem,” she said. “I just want people to know that we are out there.”