Dealership nixes service dogs in cars

Diego Hurtado, a retired Army paratrooper, usually goes everywhere with his service dog Rex, a Golden Retriever and yellow Labrador mix. So he was surprised when he took his 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300w in for service, and the staff told him they could not give him a loaner because of his dog.

Workers at the Mercedes-Benz of Cutler Bay in Cutler Bay, Florida, told Hurtado that they had a rule against animals in Mercedes cars because some of their customers had allergies. Instead, the company loaned him a Chrysler 200 through an on-site Hertz car rental.

“When my service dog gets questioned,” Hurtado told Automotive News, “it pushes me into anxiety.” Hurtado needs Rex to help him with orthopedic and balance problems as well as his PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

People with service dogs are complaining more frequently that they are being denied access to businesses because of their dogs. A large part of the problem is that many people in business don’t understand the laws that apply to people and their service dogs, and because some people operate as scammers posing as people with disabilities.

Hurtado filed a lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz of Cutler Bay, and reached a settlement of $5,000 in damages. As a result of the lawsuit, the dealership will host training sessions to teach its workers how to treat customers with special needs. Mercedes-Benz of Cutler Bay will also display welcome signs for people with disabilities and their service dogs.

“People that do know the laws are too afraid to challenge them,” Hurtado said.

And he added that those who pass off their pets as service dogs, “are really dirtying the water for us.”

Sources: Automotive News