by Faiza Amin
Posted Sep 5, 2016 11:12 pm EDT
For Christine Coutts, stepping outside of her home, is a daunting task that she says is oftentimes met with much anxiety and panic attacks.
After getting a service dog, the 24-year-old says she’s noticed considerable changes in her life in the last year and a half alone. And that’s all thanks to Autumn, an Australian Shepherd, that’s trained to help her with seizures, anxiety disorders and who also serves as a guide dog due to Christine being blind in one eye.
But she says having Autumn has also brought on its share of challenges.
One specific ordeal she says left her in tears this past weekend. Christine claims several doctors at two walk-in clinics in Mississauga refused to treat her on Sunday, simply because she had a service dog.
“It’s life threatening and it’s scary,” Christine told CityNews. “I went somewhere because I needed help, and they wouldn’t help me.”
Christine claims she was asked to separate from her service dog when she wanted to see a doctor for a bad back and breathing issues at MCI The Doctor’s Office at Mississauga West.
“I said I have disabilities that allow me to have this service dog, and by law he has to accept me like a wheelchair or cane, and he said he has a mental disability and he’s afraid of dogs,” Christine said.
CityNews called the clinic, which said no one was available for comment on camera, but confirmed the incident occurred, adding that both the doctor and the nurse, the only staff members working at that time, both had a phobia of dogs. They offered to treat Christine if she left Autumn on the other side of the room.
Christine denies that, saying that she was only asked to keep her service dog outside.
“Sometimes my seizures are just focal, so I get really confused and Autumn keeps me really grounded,” the Mississauga woman said. “She’s the only familiar thing when I’m in a strange place.”
Disability Advocate David Lepofsky, didn’t want to comment on the specific case, but says denying anyone with a service dog is against the law. However, if the doctors offered alternatives, then he says that’s a step in the right direction.
“The questions that we would have to ask, is what did the service provider do, if anything, to insure that their patients’ medical needs would be met, and would be met immediately and without disruption,” said Lepofsky, who is Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.
Feeling frustrated, Christine says she then went to the Multi-Speciality walk-in clinic at Queensway and Hurontario, and where she claims she was shuffled around by a number of doctors because of her service dog.
After hours of waiting, she says a doctor finally agreed to see her.
“He didn’t understand how I could be denied treatment with a service dog, and he took me in gladly,” she explains. “He even asked to pet my service dog as an apology.”
Christine says she is hoping to get an apology from the doctors and a promise that something like this doesn’t happen to anyone again.