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Veteran 'humiliated' over service dog

A local veteran is becoming a voice for disabled people everywhere after two businesses in Houston interrogated him about his service dog.

By EMILY BAUCUM
News 4 San Antonio
Facebook: Emily Baucum TV
Twitter: @EmilyBaucum

SAN ANTONIO -- Turning pain into power, a veteran from San Antonio hopes his problems with some businesses in Houston highlight the struggles all disabled Americans face every day.

"It felt really... humiliating, is the only word I can use," Yancy Baer says.

Baer served our country and now works with wounded warriors at the Center for the Intrepid at Fort Sam Houston. He's never had a problem with his service dog here in San Antonio but felt compelled to speak up after a trip to Houston.

You can't always look at someone and see their disability. Baer is proof of that. If you passed him on the street, you would just see a man walking his dog. But his disability is always there, peeking out between his pant legs and shoes.

"I am a left leg, below-the-knee amputee," Baer say while pointing to his prosthetic leg.

That's why he's so thankful for Verbena, his faithful service dog. She's a highly-trained dog who wears a special vest.

"She can open and close doors," Baer says. "She can turn lights on and off. She retrieves items for me all the time."

Not just anyone can get a service dog. Baer went through two-and-a-half years of interviews to get Verbena.

That's why he was shocked by what he calls ignorance at two businesses in Houston.

"The hotel chain wanted to me to use six flights of stairs at the end of the hotel so I wasn't seen with the dog," Baer says.

And at a popular coffee house, Baer says an employee interrogated him about his disability. He says the employee even told him, "You're not blind."

"I've never felt uncomfortable about my prosthetic," Baer says. "I was in pants and a dress shirt. And that day I basically had to announce to a supervisor that I'm an amputee and that this dog is my service dog."

The coffee chain apologized but the whole experience sent the veteran on a new mission.

"My fight now is for the service industry to educate their employees better," Baer says. "Get the word out there of what you can and can't say to people with disabilities and their service dogs."

The word "service" is important. They used to be called "guide" dogs, but that implies you only need the dog if you're blind. So a few years ago, the Americans With Disabilities Act was updated to call them service dogs.
 
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