By Brett Gillin
Retired Green Beret colonel Bill Smith, a current student at St. Petersburg College, was “flabbergasted” when two St. Petersburg College police officers told him that he and his dog needed to leave the campus, according to this story in the Tampa Tribune. Bill Smith, who survived the September 11, 2001 attack on the pentagon and several deployments to war zones, is a 100 percent disabled retired veteran. Along with that 100 percent disability, Bill Smith has been granted a service dog, Lucy, from Southeastern Guide Dogs and their program “Paws for Patriots.” Lucy has been deemed medically necessary, but the police officers who asked Bill Smith to leave apparently did not want to hear that.
Bill Smith and his dog Lucy were sitting at the Hard Drive Café on campus when the police officers asked him to remove the animal. Bill Smith, according to reports, offered to show a letter of proof to the officers regarding the legality of him and Lucy being together at the café. Although Lucy, a 2 year old yellow Labrador Retriever who was calmly sitting at his feet, on a leash, and wearing a blue “Veteran’s Service Dog” placard, the officers stuck with their demand that Mr. Smith exit the building and campus completely, without examining his paperwork.
Smith told the Tampa Tribune “I offered them the documentation. They refused. I was flabbergasted, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know how to react.” So Bill Smith called the Clearwater Police, then left the campus before they arrived. He continued “I walked out there like I was in a coma. I was powerless. There is a reason why I have a service dog. This is exactly the treatment I don’t expect from university I been attending for the last four years trying to get back into the work force.”
Being kicked off campus did not sit well with Bill Smith, who began calling college officials the next day. He also reached out to the Americans with Disabilities Act office on campus, but was told that in order for Lucy to be allowed back on campus, he would have to provide a host of information, which by all accounts sounds like it violates federal laws.
When speaking of the documentation the college was requiring, Mr. Smith explained “I would have to get a letter signed by my doctor with identification of my medical malady requiring the service dog and how the service dog is trained to mitigate the symptoms of that specific malady.” According to this report, it is against federal law to ask those with a service dog for that information.
In the end, Bill Smith provided the information requested, and Lucy is now allowed back on campus. But Bill Smith is not done, as he has filed complaints with the Department of Justice and the Pinellas County Office of Human Rights.