LEXINGTON, N.C. — A military veteran with PTSD said his employer recently told him he couldn’t bring his service dog with him anymore, despite there already being other dogs where he works.
Ray Kirby said the Brian Center Nursing Home in Lexington told him he could no longer bring his golden retriever, Doc.
Doc helps Ray, a combat medic in Iraq for four years, handle his PTSD.
“Since I’ve had Doc since the beginning of January, he’s changed my life. I have a reason to live,” Ray said.
Dave Cantara trained Doc and dozens of other dogs to work with veterans with anxiety disorders and other illnesses.
“Especially for combat medics, they have that survivor’s remorse, which can be a very heavy weight to bear,” Cantara said.
Ray said his PTSD causes him to struggle with suicidal thoughts and often take incredibly high risks. Ray said Doc helped with that, which is why he’s shocked his employer doesn’t allow him to have it anymore.
“At the facility, they allow pets to be there and other service animals, and here I am denied access with my dog,” Ray said.
Kirby said he scheduled a meeting with the Brian Center’s staff to talk about Doc. Ray and Dave took along Dr. Joan Esnayra, an advocate who heads the Psychiatric Service Dog Society in Washington DC.
“We were told there is no meeting and that we needed to leave immediately. I felt badly for my hosts who brought me down here because it was very expensive to fly me here for the day, and that money has been wasted now,” Dr. Esnayra said.
“When they asked us to leave, that solidified in my mind that we’re dealing with someone who has character issues,” Dave said.
Federal law requires employers to make accommodations for people and their service dogs. A service dog is defined as a dog that helps people with physical or mental disabilities.
The Brian Center sent a statement Tuesday, which said it follows U.S. Department of Justice regulations when it comes to service dogs.
The statement continues below:
In this case, the leadership team has evaluated the request of the employee and has developed a plan aimed at accommodating his needs. The facility is in the process of contacting the employee to discuss the plan.
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Ray said he had not yet heard from his employer.