Update: Ark Encounter denies turning woman, service dog away - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Ark Encounter denies turning woman with service dog away

FOX19 NOW/file FOX19 NOW/file
WILLIAMSTOWN, KY (FOX19) -

An Alabama woman claims her family and their service dog Gizzy were denied access to the Ark Encounter, a Noah's Ark exhibit in Williamstown.
 
“I have a service dog. She alerts my husband and son by barking if I have a crisis with Myasthenia Gravis. She is registered,” said Tiffany Douglas.
 
Myasthenia Gravis is defined as is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscle, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Douglas traveled six hours to see the Ark on Saturday. She said she was disappointed by the way things turned out and had to explain to three employees why she was required to have a service dog. 

Reached for comment Tuesday, a spokesman for Ark Encounter said they do not allow service dogs in for mental health issues.

They referred us to their policy about service animals:

"At the Ark Encounter, a “service animal” is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.

"Animals that are only used for “comfort,” “therapy,” or “emotional support” do not meet the definition of a service animal.

"No animals except for service animals assisting a person with a disability, or service animals with a qualified trainer, are allowed at the Ark Encounter."

Mark Looy, Ark Encounter's chief compliance officer and co-founder, expanded on that Wednesday morning.

In an email to FOX19 NOW, he said Douglas "was never denied entry by staff and was not asked to leave the property and not return.

"Furthermore," Looy wrote, "the public safety officer who dealt with the lady stated: 'The woman never even claimed an emotional support dog in the first place. She just refused to answer our questions.'"

He said she would be welcome back to the Ark with a true service animal next time, saying all types of dogs are welcome. 

"These types of dogs are welcome," his email states.

Looy also that while he is not suggesting this incident is a case of a "fake" service dog, he did say they are "becoming a big problem, and it's why attractions are more vigilant than ever in keeping untrained comfort animals away from their guests and other animals."

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