Service dog trainer: ADA laws protect right to leave dog off leash

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A viral Facebook post has people wondering if a local mall went too far while service dogs were being trained on the property.

A photo posted to Facebook on Wednesday shows a confrontation between mall security and a service dog trainer. The post has been commented on and shared over 1,500 times.

The trainer, Erin Gray, said she was at Kennedy Mall helping train a diabetes service dog for a local family. She also had her PTSD service dog in tow.

"I had my service dog, Vanilla Ice, with me," said Gray. "And by federal law he is not required to be on a leash. He is well behaved enough that I can control him verbally. And he does that off leash because he can go three feet in front of me to be able to block my path."

Those with the mall have a different story. They said the woman put her PTSD dog on a leash, but it was not in her control.

"The dog that she had on a leash was 100 feet back somewhere, clearly not under her control," Joe Bell, Director of Corporate Communications for Cafaro Company, the owner of Kennedy Mall said. He serves as a spokesperson for the mall.

Gray said the property manager was unprofessional and threatened to remove them from the mall. She added that the laws protect her rights to keep him off leash.

"The woman in question was not told to leave the mall, was not physically removed in any fashion," Bell said. "She left on her own volition later on."

The ADA clearly states service animals must be on some sort of leash, unless it interferes with the service animal's work.

And that is where the mall and the trainer disagree.

When asked if she would go back, Gray said: "The family with Bindi that I was there training actually has an event at the mall tomorrow that they will be at with their service dog."