Why a service dog was denied access at American Legion Post 274

Reporter: Annalise Iraola Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:
service dog
Service dog Beth. CREDIT: WINK News

An organization is explaining its rationale after denying access to a veteran and their service dog.

On Friday, WINK News introduced Southwest Floridians to Dee Pilkons. She fought for our country and now lives with PTSD and hearing loss.

service dog
Service dog ID. CREDIT: WINK News

Her service dog, Beth, from America’s Vet Dogs, changed her life. However, Pilkons is devastated because the commander of American Legion Post 274 on Fort Myers Beach said Pilkons is welcome there, but Beth isn’t.

American Legion Post 274 has gotten significant backlash since last week. Representatives from American Legion Post 274 said it’s not solely up to them. Rather, it was a voted-on member decision.

WINK News followed up with Pilkons and Beth on Monday while also sitting down with representatives from American Legion 274 to see what is being done to resolve the issue.

Pilkons, an Army veteran, served in the United States military during the Gulf War. She told WINK News that Beth is her trained service dog.

“I have hearing loss, and she alerts me if I do not hear something. She will come and nudge me and tell me,” said Pilkons.

Pilkons also has PTSD, another obstacle that Beth helps her overcome. Beth’s duty became a bit more of a challenge last week when she was denied entry into American Legion Post 274.

“In disbelief. First I was angry and that came out. And I told the guys I couldn’t believe this. This is one of our service dogs,” said Pilkons.

American Legion Post 274 said that when the adjutant, who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons, and the post commander were having a conversation and felt a dog sniffing at their feet.

“And we turned around and Commander mentioned, ‘Sorry, there’s no dogs allowed to post,'” said the adjutant.

They said they welcomed her to stay on the lanai, but Pilkons and Beth decided to leave. American Legion Post 274 said the reason dogs aren’t allowed unless they are guide dogs is because the members voted for that decision in 2019.

“The post took a vote, and they said no animals because we have so many asthmatic members, and they were getting sick when the dogs came in, but we never said not in the post. We said not in the canteen, which is where food and beverages are served,” said the adjutant.

The post spokesperson told WINK News the average age of members is 65 years old, and many of them struggle with respiratory issues.

The Americans with Disabilities Act does have limited exemptions when it comes to religious organizations and private clubs, but only if certain requirements are met. The commander of American Legion Post 274 said all members are welcome, and he wants to find a solution for Pilkons and wants everyone to feel welcome.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.