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Colton man wants town to look at service dog laws

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COLTON - Colton resident Jon Sabin says that he has been ridiculed by countless law enforcement officials throughout his life and he wants the town to start looking at the issue.

Mr. Sabin, who said he suffers from a seizure disorder among other medical issues and requires a service dog, told town officials Wednesday night that because his handicap doesn’t necessitate a wheelchair he has often been called a fraud.

“Part of my life is haunted by a symbol. The symbol stares at me from walls and parking spaces and marks classrooms and bathrooms and ramps. It is a person sitting on a half circle that is supposed to be a wheelchair. It is the mark that signifies that a place is handicapped accessible,” Mr. Sabin said. “But it has become more than that. A symbol is not supposed to be all-inclusive. Society has yet to grasp the fact that in order to be a disabled person, one does not need to be in a wheelchair or to use a service dog be blind.”

Mr. Sabin is the operator of Seizure Alert Dogs for Life, Inc., and filed suit in September 2012 in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, against Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Assistant Attorney General Deanna R. Nelson, claiming his civil rights were violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act when the attorney general obtained an order barring him from running his business.

Mr. Schneiderman had argued that Mr. Sabin was falsely advertising that his dogs were trained to alert people about oncoming seizures. Mr. Sabin filed federal action, contending that federal disability laws supersede state laws governing service-animal training.

“The St. Lawrence County Sheriff told me he would be more than happy if a disabled person has a legitimate service dog to take it to his K-9 officers. Go for a walk with the cop for 10 minutes and prove that the dog is safe to be able to get a standardized ID,” Mr. Sabin said. “I’m asking the town also to recommend to St. Lawrence County, to make it county wide. ... My dog is trained and I even have an order from a federal judge that my dog is a service dog. The point is I’m going to have to train another one. This is going to go on for the rest of my life.

“There is one thing that this town can do - it’s to pass a law that if a person puts a vest or falsely identifies their dog as a service animal - jail and a real steep fine. ... In my own personal opinion I think store owners or anyone else should be facing a crime for slamming their door in my face. But for now, falsely identifying your dog, no place in this country has done that. Start it here.”

Town Supervisor Dennis B. Bulger said that he has talked with St. Lawrence County Legislator Scott Sutherland about the issue and will continue those discussions.

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