Veteran kicked out of hospital over service dog

CAPE CORAL, FLA – According to a 2019 Lee Health Employee Training Guide, there are some service animal questions that employees are prohibited from asking guests due to possible HIPAA violations. And yet a couple from Cape Coral say a security guard asked them last week at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

“He said, ‘What is the reason for the service dog and what is your disability? Why do you need a service dog?” Said Zachary Hawthorne. “We were both a little baffled.”

A cell phone recording of the incident shows that if they did not provide this information, things got hot.

“You kept asking about paperwork, paperwork, you need evidence. We said, ‘Here’s an ID that says he’s a service dog and you can’t ask these questions. He says,’ I don’t want to see that . I don’t care, ‘”said Zachary.

The dog in question, three-year-old Bruce, officially became Jessica Hawthorne’s service dog in the fall of 2020 after nine months of training.

She says he is helping with the PTSD she developed while on duty.

“When I’m triggered or I have a panic attack, he lies down in front of us. Both of us. Although he’s my service animal. He will also lie down next to us and hug us,” she said.

The Hawthornes are both veterans and say this is the first time since Bruce has been certified that they have ever had a problem.

And they add that they were primarily in the hospital because their young son needs an operation.

[I] took him to the hospital to help me with my fear and they made it worse. When I left I said ‘Thanks for triggering my PTSD’. Because they did, “said Jessica.

Lee Health released the following statement regarding the incident:

Lee Health welcomes all vaccinated service animals. In accordance with federal and state laws, Lee Health requires that all service animals visiting our facilities undergo federal vaccination and that animal owners have appropriate vaccination records available upon request to ensure the health and safety of our patients .

The Hawthornes say their dog cannot be certified unless it is vaccinated and they have the IDs to prove its certification status.

Additionally, according to the 2019 training manual, this is also a question employees shouldn’t ask.

The Hawthornes say they are now nervous that their son’s surgery has been postponed to Friday, which means they will have to go back.

“She’s going to take him back because she needs him there,” said Zachary.

“I don’t want to be bothered again,” said Jessica.