Disabled veteran’s service dog denied entry to an American Legion Post building

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Matias Abril
Published: Updated:

A Gulf War veteran was turned away from the American Legion Post on Fort Myers Beach because she brought her service dog.

Dee Pilkons has been a member of the American Legion Post for the past four years.

She received her service dog in June to help her cope with her PTSD and hearing loss.

Less than two weeks ago, she brought her dog here for the first time, but she was turned away, and the commander told her dogs aren’t allowed, not even service dogs.

Now, she’s fighting to change the policy here and ensure no other veterans are turned away.

“My psychiatrist at the Bedford VA, she noticed a really big change in me without my dog, and so, she suggested a service dog, and she helped me find America’s Vet Dogs,” Pilkons said.

All led to her dog, Beth, joining her life. Beth is a certified service dog from America’s Vet Dogs.

“She really calms me down. She keeps me very level. She helps me with my hearing. I’m a completely different person now,” Pilkons said.

When the local organization serving veterans wouldn’t allow the service dog inside, Pilkons felt defeated.

They said, ‘You’re welcome, but your dog is not,’ and if my dog is not welcome, she is my companion that helps me on a daily basis, and for them to do that, they’ve just denied me under my rights under the ADA law,” Pilkons said.

The commander of American Legion Post 274 wouldn’t allow Beth inside. He said the American Legion Post is a private club and does not have to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Americans with Disabilities Act does have limited exemptions when it comes to religious organizations and private clubs, but only if specific requirements are met.

Pilkons feels like an organization serving veterans should accommodate those who served, including veterans with disabilities.

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