An Argyle man claims he was denied medical treatment, after staff at a Denton emergency room refused to treat him – because of his service dog. The hospital apologized and says the incident is under review.
For Andrew Kelley, the 120-pound Dogo Argentino named Tosin is much more than just man’s best friend. He's also Andrew’s service dog. The former Army medic suffered back and brain injuries during his service in Iraq.
"Before I had him, I’d lost quite a bit of independence," Kelley said. "Getting him was able to bring that independence back to me.”
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Tosin is trained to detect seizures and help Kelley with mobility.
"The only thing he worries about is me and if I’m okay," he said.
On Monday, Kelley went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Denton for treatment of a back problem.
"I wasn’t there 10 minutes, and I was approached by two police officers, who pulled me aside and wanted to know if they could ask me a few questions," Kelley said.
He says that’s when he learned that his dog was a problem. Kelley says the officers asked him about his dog, and why he was at the hospital. He says he was later told the hospital would not treat him – as long as his dog was with him.
"To question the validity of the service he provides me – not okay," Kelley said. "And then to overall say no, sorry, we can’t help you -- that’s not okay.”
Texas law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act guarantee the right of a person with disabilities to have a trained service dog in all public places -- hospitals included.
"It’s not just frustrating, it’s demoralizing," Kelley said. "It’s embarrassing and it’s complete and open discrimination.”
In a response, the hospital acknowledged the incident. A statement from Texas Health Resources said: "The events of Monday evening at Texas Health Denton are currently under review. The hospital regrets any inconvenience caused to Mr. Kelley and his service dog during their campus visit, and we apologize to Mr. Kelley and his family. This occurrence does not comport with Texas Health Denton’s policies. We will address any opportunities for education and improvement indicated by our review."
Kelley says he’s willing to work with the hospital to make the situation right.
"This isn’t about me. This isn’t about him," Kelley said. "This is about changing a broken system.”
After his incident, Kelley says he also contacted his local congressman and the Civil Rights Office of Texas Health and Human Services. He worries about more vulnerable vets with service dogs, and wants to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen – to someone else.
"There’s no excuse," he said. "There’s really no excuse.”