VERIFY: Do service animals have to wear a marked vest?

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A Warner Robins woman says store employees kicked her out of a store because her service animal was not wearing one.

Photo via Shiloh Martinez

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (WMAZ) — A Warner Robins woman is disappointed after she says some store employees asked her to leave because her service dog didn’t have a marked vest.

But are service animals required to wear one inside of stores?

Shiloh Martinez posted a video on Facebook of employees asking her to leave the store. The post got more than 300 shares and almost 600 comments. 

Martinez says she didn’t put a vest on her service dog when she went to Walmart on Watson Boulevard because it was broken. She says she also didn’t put one on her dog because she didn’t have to. 

Reporter Sabrina Burse set out to verify if that’s true. Her sources are the Americans with Disabilities Act and the United States Department of Justice, service animal regulations. 

Martinez has owned her service dog, Katie, for about a year. 

“Most of her tasks would include things for anxiety such as deep pressure therapy and light mobility work for me,” said Martinez. 

On Sunday, Martinez says Walmart employees questioned why her dog didn’t have a marked service animal vest before asking her to leave the store.

According to the United States Department of Justice, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.

It does, however, say service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered unless the devices interfere with the service animal’s work. 

So we verified, service animals don’t have to wear a marked vest.

“Discrimination against us happens quite frequently. In restaurants, stores like Walmart, gas stations,” said Martinez. 

Martinez says different employees asked her multiple times if her dog was a service animal. She says one of the employees got aggressive with her when she refused to leave. She says she had a panic attack and Walmart employees called the police. 

“It was intimidating, honestly, and I’m really disappointed that their first thought was not to listen to me but to try to intimidate me, to scare me out of the store,” said Martinez. 

Martinez says a manager contacted her to apologize for the situation, but she says that’s not enough.  

“Further educate the employees,” said Martinez. 

13WMAZ called Walmart’s corporate office. Staff told told 13WMAZ that service animals are not required to wear a vest and they would look into the incident. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act also says when it’s not obvious what service an animal provides, staff may only ask two questions: 

(1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

(2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Martinez says she filed a complaint with Walmart’s ethics department. 

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