Who Are the Leaders of the National Association of Guide Dog Users?

Who Are the Leaders of the National Association of Guide Dog Users?

The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) is a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The NFB believes that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of the blind because low expectations are the barriers that stand between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want! Blindness is not what holds you back!

While preparing a grant proposal recently, I asked each member of the NAGDU board to write a brief biography of themselves from a third person perspective. When I read the biographies they submitted I learned a great deal about those with whom I serve and the talent we have serving on the board of directors of NAGDU. I also realize that these brief biographies were a testament to the truth of the message of the NFB which opens this article: “You can live the life you want! Blindness is not what holds you back!” I know that these biographies only offer a glimpse of the incredible talent available to us in our grassroots membership. It also affirmed for me that the NFB, through NAGDU, is on the brink of superlative achievements that will radically shift public perception of the blind and, in doing so, unleash the incredible potential for change that lies in each one of us!

The National Association of Guide Dog Users holds its annual business meetings during the convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The board of directors is elected by the membership and consists of four executive officers – president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer – and three additional board members. In order to maintain its representative function, the president and vice president must be blind and either a guide dog user or between guide dogs and a majority of the board must be blind. The current board of directors are all blind guide dog users and is comprised of the following individuals:

Marion Gwizdala has served as the president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users since 2008. Prior to his election as president, Gwizdala served as the association’s vice president from 2004 until 2008. Marion possesses a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling with special training in Rehabilitation Counseling. Marion has been involved in disability rights advocacy since 1984, specializing in blindness and service animal issues. He is a published author, an accomplished public speaker, and an experienced workshop facilitator in the areas of psychosocial aspects of blindness, disability policy, and legal issues related to the use of service animals. Marion has been a guide dog handler since 1987. He has been involved in several high profile cases both as a complainant and an advocate. He has been instrumental in creating civil rights legislation in several states and is a recognized leader in the blindness and service/guide dog users’ movements.

Michael Hingson has served as the vice president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users since 2008. Mike possesses a Master of Science in Physics and is a certified secondary teacher in the state of California. He is an internationally acclaimed public speaker and New York Times bestselling author for his book “Thunder Dog”, his account of his escape from the World Trade Centers during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Hingson, who has been blind from birth, now works tirelessly to educate people about blindness, Inclusion, and many other topics. He also is a well-known expert on access technology for persons with disabilities.

Antoinette “Toni” Whaley has been the treasurer of the National Association of Guide Dog Users Since 2006. She also serves as president of the Pennsylvania Association of Guide Dog Users and is the treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. Toni Possesses a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics. Toni worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) AND Sun Oil Company as a computer programmer. After her daughter was born, she returned to school and received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and Master of Education in Counseling. Toni was a research assistant in the Developmental Disability Center at Temple University where she developed a continuing education seminar for nurses about working with disabled patients and co-authored two papers on that subject, as well as the introductory chapter for a book about families with disabled parents. She also taught courses on the lifespan of human development at the undergraduate level

Sherrill O’Brien has served as the secretary of the National Association of Guide Dog Users since 2008. She is also the president of the Florida Association of Guide Dog Users and Secretary of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. Sherrill possesses a Master of Arts in teaching English as a second language and is conversant in Spanish. Sherrill is a life-long Braille reader and a tireless proponent of Braille literacy. She can often be found reading to children in Braille and teaching them about the tactile code used by the blind, as well as sharing accurate information about guide dogs.

James Boehm is our most recent addition to our board of directors, having been elected in July 2015. Jimmy is the president of the Tennessee Association of Guide Dog Users, and serves as Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee. Jimmy is a senior at Middle Tennessee State University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Upon graduation in May, Jimmy will pursue a Master of Arts in counseling and licensing as a mental health counselor.

Jessica Snyder has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Guide Dog Users since 2014. Jessica is also the President of the New York Association of Guide Dog Users and an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of New York. She works as a Customer Service Representative for the Internal Revenue Service. Jessica enjoys skiing and competitive horseback riding, including hunt seat and Dressage, as well as Western saddle, winning a number of mainstream competitions.

Tina Thomas has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Guide Dog Users since 2012 and chairs its Social Networking Committee. Tina is the president of the California Association of Guide Dog Users and an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of California. Tina is a Braille Instructor for the Junior Blind of America in Los Angeles, California. Tina holds a 4th degree black belt in Judo. She competes internationally and is currently vying for a spot on the 2016 Para Olympic team.

The board of directors is charged with conducting the business of the Association between meetings. The board generally meets monthly via teleconference and its meetings are open for all members to observe. For more information about the National Association of Guide dog users or the National Federation of the blind, please send an email message to info@nagdu.org or visit our website at www.nagdu.org.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Service animals & the ADAFrequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA

The following information is excerpted from


For more information or for advocacy guidance, please call 888-NAGDU411 (888-624-3841)

Marion Gwizdala, President

National Association of Guide Dog Users

National Federation of the blind



Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA

Many people with disabilities use a service animal in order to fully participate in everyday life. Dogs can be trained to perform many important tasks to assist people with disabilities, such as providing stability for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items for a person who uses a wheelchair, preventing a child with autism from wandering away, or alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching from behind.

The Department of Justice continues to receive many questions about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to service animals. The ADA requires State and local government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations (covered entities) that provide goods or services to the public to make “reasonable modifications” in their policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. The service animal rules fall under this general principle. Accordingly, entities that have a “no pets” policy generally must modify the policy to allow service animals into their facilities. This publication provides guidance on the ADA’s service animal provisions and should be read in conjunction with the publication ADA Revised Requirements: Service Animals.


Q1. What is a service animal?

A. Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Q2. What does “do work or perform tasks” mean?

A. The dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person with diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels. A person with depression may have a dog that is trained to remind her to take her medication. Or, a person who has epilepsy may have a dog that is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and then help the person remain safe during the seizure.

Q3. Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?

A. No.  These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.  Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.  However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places.  You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

Q4. If someone’s dog calms them when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a service animal?

A. It depends. The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.

Q5. Does the ADA require service animals to be professionally trained?

A. No. People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.

Q6. Are service-animals-in-training considered service animals under the ADA?

A. No. Under the ADA, the dog must already be trained before it can be taken into public places. However, some State or local laws cover animals that are still in training.


Q7. What questions can a covered entity’s employees ask to determine if a dog is a service animal?

A. In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.

Q8. Do service animals have to wear a vest or patch or special harness identifying them as service animals?

A. No. The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.

Q9. Who is responsible for the care and supervision of a service animal?

A. The handler is responsible for caring for and supervising the service animal, which includes toileting, feeding, and grooming and veterinary care. Covered entities are not obligated to supervise or otherwise care for a service animal.

Q10. Can a person bring a service animal with them as they go through a salad bar or other self-service food lines?

A. Yes. Service animals must be allowed to accompany their handlers to and through self-service food lines. Similarly, service animals may not be prohibited from communal food preparation areas, such as are commonly found in shelters or dormitories.

Q11. Can hotels assign designated rooms for guests with service animals, out of consideration for other guests?

A. No. A guest with a disability who uses a service animal must be provided the same opportunity to reserve any available room at the hotel as other guests without disabilities. They may not be restricted to “pet-friendly” rooms.

Q12. Can hotels charge a cleaning fee for guests who have service animals?

No. Hotels are not permitted to charge guests for cleaning the hair or dander shed by a service animal. However, if a guest’s service animal causes damages to a guest room, a hotel is permitted to charge the same fee for damages as charged to other guests.

Q13. Can people bring more than one service animal into a public place?

A. Generally, yes. Some people with disabilities may use more than one service animal to perform different tasks. For example, a person who has a visual disability and a seizure disorder may use one service animal to assist with way-finding and another that is trained as a seizure alert dog. Other people may need two service animals for the same task, such as a person who needs two dogs to assist him or her with stability when walking. Staff may ask the two permissible questions (See Question 7) about each of the dogs. If both dogs can be accommodated, both should be allowed in. In some circumstances, however, it may not be possible to accommodate more than one service animal. For example, in a crowded small restaurant, only one dog may be able to fit under the table. The only other place for the second dog would be in the aisle, which would block the space between tables. In this case, staff may request that one of the dogs be left outside.

Q14. Does a hospital have to allow an in-patient with a disability to keep a service animal in his or her room?

A. Generally, yes. Service animals must be allowed in patient rooms and anywhere else in the hospital the public and patients are allowed to go. They cannot be excluded on the grounds that staff can provide the same services.

Q15. What happens if a patient who uses a service animal is admitted to the hospital and is unable to care for or supervise their animal?

A. If the patient is not able to care for the service animal, the patient can make arrangements for a family member or friend to come to the hospital to provide these services, as it is always preferable that the service animal and its handler not be separated, or to keep the dog during the hospitalization. If the patient is unable to care for the dog and is unable to arrange for someone else to care for the dog, the hospital may place the dog in a boarding facility until the patient is released, or make other appropriate arrangements. However, the hospital must give the patient the opportunity to make arrangements for the dog’s care before taking such steps.

Q16. Must a service animal be allowed to ride in an ambulance with its handler?

A. Generally, yes.  However, if the space in the ambulance is crowded and the dog’s presence would interfere with the emergency medical staff’s ability to treat the patient, staff should make other arrangements to have the dog transported to the hospital.


Q17. Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?

A. No.  Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.

There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

Q18. My city requires all dogs to be vaccinated.  Does this apply to my service animal?

A. Yes.  Individuals who have service animals are not exempt from local animal control or public health requirements.

Q19. My city requires all dogs to be registered and licensed.  Does this apply to my service animal?

A. Yes.  Service animals are subject to local dog licensing and registration requirements.

Q20. My city requires me to register my dog as a service animal. Is this legal under the ADA?

A. No.  Mandatory registration of service animals is not permissible under the ADA.  However, as stated above, service animals are subject to the same licensing and vaccination rules that are applied to all dogs.

Q21. My city / college offers a voluntary registry program for people with disabilities who use service animals and provides a special tag identifying the dogs as service animals. Is this legal under the ADA?

A. Yes.  Colleges and other entities, such as local governments, may offer voluntary registries.  Many communities maintain a voluntary registry that serves a public purpose, for example, to ensure that emergency staff know to look for service animals during an emergency evacuation process.  Some offer a benefit, such as a reduced dog license fee, for individuals who register their service animals.  Registries for purposes like this are permitted under the ADA.  An entity may not, however, require that a dog be registered as a service animal as a condition of being permitted in public places.  This would be a violation of the ADA.


Q22. Can service animals be any breed of dog?

A. Yes.  The ADA does not restrict the type of dog breeds that can be service animals.

Q23. Can individuals with disabilities be refused access to a facility based solely on the breed of their service animal?

A. No.  A service animal may not be excluded based on assumptions or stereotypes about the animal’s breed or how the animal might behave.  However, if a particular service animal behaves in a way that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, has a history of such behavior, or is not under the control of the handler, that animal may be excluded.  If an animal is excluded for such reasons, staff must still offer their goods or services to the person without the animal present.

Q24. If a municipality has an ordinance that bans certain dog breeds, does the ban apply to service animals?

A. No.  Municipalities that prohibit specific breeds of dogs must make an exception for a service animal of a prohibited breed, unless the dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.  Under the “direct threat” provisions of the ADA, local jurisdictions need to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal’s actual behavior or history, but they may not exclude a service animal because of fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave.  It is important to note that breed restrictions differ significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  In fact, some jurisdictions have no breed restrictions.


Q25. When can service animals be excluded?

A. The ADA does not require covered entities to modify policies, practices, or procedures if it would “fundamentally alter” the nature of the goods, services, programs, or activities provided to the public.  Nor does it overrule legitimate safety requirements.  If admitting service animals would fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program, service animals may be prohibited.  In addition, if a particular service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if it is not housebroken, that animal may be excluded.

Q26. When might a service dog’s presence fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program provided to the public?

A. In most settings, the presence of a service animal will not result in a fundamental alteration.  However, there are some exceptions.  For example, at a boarding school, service animals could be restricted from a specific area of a dormitory reserved specifically for students with allergies to dog dander.  At a zoo, service animals can be restricted from areas where the animals on display are the natural prey or natural predators of dogs, where the presence of a dog would be disruptive, causing the displayed animals to behave aggressively or become agitated.  They cannot be restricted from other areas of the zoo.

Q27. What does under control mean?  Do service animals have to be on a leash?  Do they have to be quiet and not bark?

A. The ADA requires that service animals be under the control of the handler at all times. In most instances, the handler will be the individual with a disability or a third party who accompanies the individual with a disability. In the school (K-12) context and in similar settings, the school or similar entity may need to provide some assistance to enable a particular student to handle his or her service animal. The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may use a long, retractable leash to allow her service animal to pick up or retrieve items. She may not allow the dog to wander away from her and must maintain control of the dog, even if it is retrieving an item at a distance from her. Or, a returning veteran who has PTSD and has great difficulty entering unfamiliar spaces may have a dog that is trained to enter a space, check to see that no threats are there, and come back and signal that it is safe to enter. The dog must be off leash to do its job, but may be leashed at other times. Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

Q28. What can my staff do when a service animal is being disruptive?

A. If a service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, staff may request that the animal be removed from the premises.

Q29. Are hotel guests allowed to leave their service animals in their hotel room when they leave the hotel?

A. No, the dog must be under the handler’s control at all times.

Q30. What happens if a person thinks a covered entity’s staff has discriminated against him or her?

A. Individuals who believe that they have been illegally denied access or service because they use service animals may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.  Individuals also have the right to file a private lawsuit in Federal court charging the entity with discrimination under the ADA.


Q31. Are stores required to allow service animals to be placed in a shopping cart?

A. Generally, the dog must stay on the floor, or the person must carry the dog.  For example, if a person with diabetes has a glucose alert dog, he may carry the dog in a chest pack so it can be close to his face to allow the dog to smell his breath to alert him of a change in glucose levels.

Q32. Are restaurants, bars, and other places that serve food or drink required to allow service animals to be seated on chairs or allow the animal to be fed at the table?

A. No.  Seating, food, and drink are provided for customer use only.  The ADA gives a person with a disability the right to be accompanied by his or her service animal, but covered entities are not required to allow an animal to sit or be fed at the table.

Q33. Are gyms, fitness centers, hotels, or municipalities that have swimming pools required to allow a service animal in the pool with its handler?

A. No.  The ADA does not override public health rules that prohibit dogs in swimming pools.  However, service animals must be allowed on the pool deck and in other areas where the public is allowed to go.

Q34. Are churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship required to allow individuals to bring their service animals into the facility?

A. No.  Religious institutions and organizations are specifically exempt from the ADA.  However, there may be State laws that apply to religious organizations.

Q35. Do apartments, mobile home parks, and other residential properties have to comply with the ADA?

A. The ADA applies to housing programs administered by state and local governments, such as public housing authorities, and by places of public accommodation, such as public and private universities.  In addition, the Fair Housing Act applies to virtually all types of housing, both public and privately-owned, including housing covered by the ADA.  Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers are obligated to permit, as a reasonable accommodation, the use of animals that work, provide assistance, or perform tasks that benefit persons with a disabilities, or provide emotional support to alleviate a symptom or effect of a disability.  For information about these Fair Housing Act requirements see HUD’s Notice on Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-funded Programs.

Q36. Do Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, have to comply with the ADA?

A. No.  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is the Federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities to participate in Federal programs and services.  For information or to file a complaint, contact the agency’s equal opportunity office.

Q37. Do commercial airlines have to comply with the ADA?

A. No.  The Air Carrier Access Act is the Federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities in air travel.  For information or to file a complaint, contact the U.S. Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division, at 202-366-2220.

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Another Desensitization Session at the Zoo

As we move forward to demonstrate how live animal collections can desensitize their animals to the presence of service dog in an effort to afford the least restrictive access to disabled individuals accompanied by their service dogs, we will be posting the results of our efforts. Here is a report from Dr. larry kilmar from Lowry Park Zoologic Garden in Tampa, Florida where we are conducting our demonstration project.

Marion Gwizdala, president

Summary of Desensitization Session of June 2, 2015

by Larry Kilmar

Today we had two trainers from the Suncoast Puppy Raisers, Karen and Don along with their dogs on site for the second training session. We began the training tour by revisiting the Main Aviary. We took one dog in at a time and walked through the entire aviary with each dog. The reactions from the birds were within acceptable ranges, some vocalizing, others very watchful but none were showing a great deal of stress. Both dogs were steady and showed little to no reaction to the birds.

Next we revisited the Wallaroo station and the petting area from the outside. The goats were watchful but calm while  the llamas were very interested. The dogs were curious.

The next stop was the Giraffe Feeding Station. This was our first visit to this area. Our steadiest male giraffe, Jyoti, moved to the platform and was very interested in the dogs. Again we had one dog at a time visit the platform. At one point “Jyoti” leaned down to the level of the dog behind the fence to touch noses with the dog. A truly incredible site. Don’s dog let out with a short bark however that did not scare the giraffe. The other giraffe on exhibit was near the platform and did not react to the dogs at any time.

Our last stop was back to the Lorikeet Aviary. That was our third visit to this aviary and while the birds were vocalizing, again it was within acceptable levels. The birds would not come down to Karen to feed from the nectar cup. Interestingly, the  Blue-faced Honeyeaters were vocalizing during the entire visit and the Marbled Teal showed little concern. I believe that one more visit to this aviary and we can remove it from our restricted list.

We hope to establish two sessions a month going forward, one training session during the first and third week of the month depending on schedules.        Another successful training day!!!

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National Association Of Guide Dog Users Chooses Twilio To Power Their Hotline

The National Association Of Guide Dog Users Chooses Twilio To Power Their Hotline, Track Down Illegal Denial Of Service Issues

There’s a good reason guide dogs have “don’t pet me, I’m working” printed on their harnesses. They may be adorable, but they’re working dogs first and foremost. Guide dogs offer blind men and women tremendously valuable services from navigation, to security, to companionship. The National Association of Guide Dog Users, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, gives blind people the access, training and information they need to be successful with their guide dog.

The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) uses Twilio to power one of the most powerful resources they offer their members – their hotline. It provides members with instant access to critical information on the American with Disabilities Act and their rights to take their guide dogs on planes, in restaurants etc. If they need any more help, the NAGDU has a team of volunteers ready and waiting to answer any questions members might have.

Getting Back Flexibility: NAGDU Switches To Twilio

NAGDU president Marion Gwizdala started the hotline to answer common questions members had when getting accustomed to their guide dog. But their first service provider it hard for Marion to keep that hotline up and running. It was costly and brittle. Updating the hotline’s critical pre-recorded messages and announcements was a hassle. Marion had to contact his service provider, give them the audio, pay them to change the audio prompts and then wait weeks for the change to go ship. Worse, the audio quality of the hotline was less than stellar, a big sticking point for NAGDU members.

Marion contacted developer and NAGDU member Aaron Cannon to see if he had any ideas on how they could improve the hotline, and get rid of their current provide. Aaron already had a plan. He told Marion about Twilio, the pricing, and the flexibility. Marion still was skeptical. He asked Aaron “Are you sure they’re not going to change their pricing structure in six months?” Aaron was sure, and quickly got to work switching there hotline over to Twilio and joined Twilio.org

Tapping Untapped Potential: Revamping Audio Quality and Hotline Features

“My concern was not only the price but rather the flexibility, of lack thereof, to change the messages and update the messages and to do a lot more with the hotline. I saw some untapped potential,” said Cannon. “We got it all done very quickly. We’re very pleased,” he added.

When NAGDU switched to Twilio, they got to work on three primary areas of concern they had with their previous provider: audio fidelity, flexibility, and call recording.

NAGDU re-recorded all their voice prompts in a studio, confident that Twilio would deliver the level of audio fidelity their members expected. They also built a feature for NAGDU hotline volunteers that allows them to login to the hotline remotely, from their personal phone, and set hours in which they will accept hotline calls forwarded to their personal phone. However, the most valuable asset NAGDU added is call recording.

Using Twilio <Record> To Track Down Illegal Denial Of Service

When NAGDU members have an issue with denial of service in a restaurant because they have a guide dog with them, that’s not only a problem, it’s illegal. NAGDU President Marion Gwizdala heard stories time and time again about restaurants denying service, and later claiming the denial never happened.

Using Twilio, NAGDU gives members the option to call the hotline and be transferred to a volunteer while the call is being recorded. The NAGDU member who is having the issue can easily hand the phone to the restaurant owner, who will be on record with the volunteer. With this record, the NAGDU is well equipped with the evidence they need to get restaurants to respect the rights and of blind people.

NAGDU is currently working on iOS apps that integrate with the hotline as well as assembling a record of state specific regulations for guide dogs. Marion is confident they’ll be able to move fast now that they’re using Twilio.

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Dr. larry Kilmar in His own words: “We made history today!”

Summary of training session on 5/9/15

Today we had Marion Gwizdala, NAGDU President, his wife, Merry Schoch, their granddaughter, Hannah , and Marion’s dog, along with Chuck and Debbie Hietala, Area Coordinators for the Guide Dog Foundation, and 5 guide dogs in training and their trainers to tour the Zoo.

We first started in the Main Aviary and took two dogs in separately and walked about 60 feet into the aviary with little disruption.  Interesting the first dog was one of the younger dogs in training and birds had little to no concern about that dog,  when we brought the larger dog (Marion’s dog), they did alert; however, it was not anything of great concern. Both dogs were steady.

Next we went to the Lorikeet Landing and, again, used two dogs separately. We entered the aviary and took part in the feeding.  The second dog circled the complete pathway with little to no negative reaction from the Lorikeets and the Marbled Teal were closely observing  but did not leave their position next to the pool. In both cases birds fed from the hand of the trainers while their dogs watched.

We then proceeded to Wallaroo Station, walked around the station, and up to the goat petting area.  The goats did alert, however I think it was due to the number of dogs – 6 altogether. No aggression was exhibited to speak of, more curiosity on the goats part.

We walked past the penguins to the service road. There was no reaction from the penguins. We walked down the service road to the manatees, stopped for a few minutes pool side, and then on to the service road behind the chimps to the Sweet Shop.  The chimps were interested , the mandrill did alert, and the guenons were very interested, as were the dogs.

We finished the training tour in just under two hours and, without question, I would say that it was a great success.

We will schedule future training sessions using one or two dogs to allow for easier control and access. I will distribute that schedule once Marion, Chuck, and I  touch bases. We should follow-up with an article in Zoo Chatter and a future CTTV spot as well.

We made history today!!!

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Lyft plans to appeal Hillsborough ruling

With the ongoing litigation of the National Federation of the Blind alleging discrimination by Uber, another ride-sharing company, we are keeping our eye on this issue with Lyft. Uber and Lyft contend they are not transportation companies and, as such, not covered entities subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ruling by a Hillsborough County (Tampa, Fla.) hearing officer that they are acting as a taxi company subject to the rules of the county’s Public Transportation Comission (PTC) contradicts this assertion. Here is the latest on this issue.

Marion Gwizdala, President

Lyft plans to appeal Hillsborough ruling Hedly news offlead runs @ 2/42/2, plz. By Steve Contorno Times Staff Writer TAMPA Lyft officials say they will appeal a hearing officer’s decision to uphold a citation against the ride-sharing company issued by Hillsborough County. “Lyft’s peer-to-peer model is fundamentally different than a taxi or limo and we intend to appeal the decision to the Second District Court of Appeal,” spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson told the Tampa Bay Times. On Monday, a hearing officer upheld a $200 citation against Lyft issued during a December sting operation. The ruling said that while Lyft may not own any cars, it operates similar to a taxi company. And without the proper permitting, it wasn’t allowed to do business in Hillsborough. “Although the vehicle involved in the citation was not an actual taxicab, it was functioning in the same capacity,” hearing officer Susan More wrote, noting also that Lyft approves the drivers, completes background checks and provides commercial liability insurance. More issued a similar verdict against Lyft’s competitor Uber last year. The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is weighing how to regulate ride-sharing companies here. Lyft said it wants to find a solution. “People in Tampa have made it clear they want Lyft as an affordable, reliable way to get around their city,” Wilson said, “And we remain committed to working with the PTC toward a solution that secures a future for ride-sharing. Contact Steve Contorno at scontorno@tampabay.com or @scontorno.

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Tampa Hearing Officer Calls Lyft a Taxi Company

The National Federation of the Blind has filed a lawsuit against Uber alleging discrimination for failing to transport blind people accompanied by their guide dogs. Uber asserts they are not a transportation provider; rather, they are a technology company. here is a story about the decision of a Hillsborough County (Tampa, Fla.) hearing officer who found that Lyft, a ride-sharing company similar to Uber, is a taxi company.

Marion Gwizdala, President

National Association of Guide dog Users

National Federation of the Blind

Hearing officer confirms Lyft acts as taxi company. By Steve Contorno Times Staff Writer TAMPA For all intents and purposes, Lyft is a taxi company, and it violated Hillsborough County rules by operating without proper permits. That’s the ruling from county hearing officer Susan More , who upheld a $200 citation against the ride-sharing company issued in December. In her ruling Monday, More said police witnessed a driver using a cellphone with Lyft software that “calculated distance and fare, which, in essence, serves as a taximeter. “Although the vehicle involved in the citation was not an actual taxicab, it was functioning in the same capacity,” More wrote. Lyft asserted during the hearing that it was not a transportation-for-hire company because it did not own cars. Lyft has said it’s a technology company that helps connect passengers and drivers. More rejected that argument. She said approving the drivers, completing background checks and providing commercial liability insurance “demonstrate an involvement by Lyft in the causing or allowing of the operation of a public vehicle without a permit. The hearing pertained to just one citation, but the county and Lyft agreed in advance that the ruling would apply to 38 other tickets issued last year. Ride-sharing has become a controversial issue for state and local governments around the country. Users enjoy the ease of ordering and paying for a ride on their phones without the hassle of cash or credit. But regulators worry drivers are not properly vetted or certified, and that the rate flexibility ride-sharing companies enjoy is not afforded to taxicabs. The Hillsborough County Commission is weighing how to balance those competing concerns. In the meantime, Uber and Lyft aren’t supposed to operate here. On Tuesday, Uber asked its Florida customers to sign a petition asking lawmakers to enact a law in the upcoming special session allowing ride-sharing. Lyft can appeal the results of the hearing to the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission board and then to the 2nd District Court of Appeal. In addition to the fine, the company was ordered to pay a $400 hearing fee.

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