Service Dog Owner Hoping for More Education After ShopKo Incident

By Katie Wiedemann, Reporter

DUBUQUE, Iowa - A Jackson County woman hopes other people won't have to deal with the situation she and her service dog faced on Thursday. She says a Dubuque ShopKo employee questioned why she had the dog with her while shopping.

Jodi Deppe loves her dog Gabby. But for her, the animal is much more than a pet.

Deppe said, "I work with kids who have autism. She works in my class as a comfort dog. "

That's why she brought Gabby with her shopping on Thursday.

"We take her out in public just to keep her training up." said Deppe. "That keeps her used to being around people. "

She says a ShopKo employee questioned whether Deppe had a disability.

Deppe said, "When I pointed out that she wasn't a pet she asked me if I was blind. And when I said "no", she said I needed to leave the store because dogs aren't allowed. "

Linda Ayers is the executive director for Proudly Accessible Dubuque, A non-profit that helps promote A.D.A awareness. Ayers says the ShopKo employee's question was illegal.

Ayers said, "The business has a right to ask a person if the dog has been trained to assist with a disability. They can NOT ask what the disability is or what it's for. "

ShopKo Corporate Spokesperson, Tara Zeller admitted the employee made a mistake and didn't handle the situation correctly.

Zeller said, "ShopKo is always welcoming of service animals. The company is using today's incident as a teachable moment."

Deppe says a ShopKo manager also called her to apologize.
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