(KUTV) â€” An American Fork woman says she was verbally harassed while shopping with her service dog at a Walmart store in Spanish Fork.
Ashley Fitzpatrick said an employee stopped her at the door on Monday night and told her the service dog, Kona, needed to be on a leash. Fitzpatrick said the worker then accused her of faking her disability, saying she didnâ€™t need a service dog.
â€śHow can you say that to someone like me? Even though itâ€™s a mental disability, itâ€™s just as debilitating,â€ť Fitzpatrick said.
Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities have the right to be accompanied by a service dog in stores, restaurants and other public places. Business owners are also not allowed to ask someone what kind of disability they have. Fitzpatrick said Konaâ€™s training requires her to be off leash.
Fitzpatrick struggles with anxiety and depression and Kona helps to stop panic attacks, among many other tasks. Sheâ€™s been working with Kona for over a year and half now, and said the dog has drastically improved her quality of life.
â€śThere have been weeks where I havenâ€™t left the house and now itâ€™s to the point where Iâ€™m out every day,â€ť she said.
Kona has helped her regain her confidence. She also is trained to perform pressure therapy when she senses a panic attack.
Fitzpatrick is calling on employers to implement better service dog training.
â€śI feel like training needs to go a step further so something like this doesnâ€™t happen,â€ť she said.
Store managers at the Spanish Fork Walmart apologized to Fitzpatrick for the incident. Walmart corporate also released the following statement:
We’re committed to providing a safe shopping experience for those shoppers and associates relying on assistance from service animals. We appreciate our customer bringing this to our attention and have apologized to the customer.