Police: Guard removes woman over seeing-eye dog

Updated:

Hurbie leads Melissa McMann down a stairwell.
WINDER, Ga.,None - A Barrow County woman said she suffered bruises and a minor shoulder injury after a guard at a Social Security office tried to remove her because of her service dog.

"He provides my independence. He basically serves as my eyes," Melissa McMann said, of the yellow lab named Hurbie, her trained service dog.

McMann suffers from a degenerative retinal condition.

"In places like dark buildings, I virtually have no sight," McMann told Channel 2 Action News reporter Manuel Bojorquez.

She said she is accustomed to questions about where the dog can and cannot go. So she's researched the law and said, as a service dog, Hurbie is entitled to go where most of the public is allowed.

That was challenged Sept. 15, when her husband drove her to the Social Security office in Winder and, she said, a guard asked for the dog's papers.

Manuel Bojorquez, WSB-TV Melissa McMann and Hurbie Hurbie leads Melissa McMann down a stairwell.

"I proceeded to tell him that he doesn't have papers but that he's wearing his harness and he's a certified seeing-eye dog," she said.

The dog's harness is marked with the name of the school where he trained and the message, "Ignore me. I'm a working dog."

McMann said the law does not require a need to provide documentation. So, she asked the guard to provide in writing to her and her husband the law he was citing. That's when the disagreement escalated.

McMann said the guard grabbed her wrist, then her upper arm and forced her from the chair in which she was sitting.

"When he started to grab my wife, that is when I called the police," said McMann's husband, Chris.

According to a Winder police report, the incident left her with bruises and a minor shoulder injury.

The guard involved in the incident, Leroy Huff, told Bojorquez he was simply following orders and acted based on training but that he could not say more because the case is under investigation.

Winder police said there is an arrest warrant for battery against Huff and that he plans to turn himself in.

A Social Security representative provided the following statement: "Service animals are allowed in Social Security field offices. We have apologized to Ms. McMann for the unfortunate incident that occurred with the contract security guard in our Winder field Office."

"The guard is a contracted worker from a security company used by the Department of Homeland Security. We referred this matter to the Federal Protective Service of the Department of Homeland Security for appropriate action," the statement said.

Mr. McMann said they're speaking out to bring awareness to the issues of those who must use service animals.

"The laws are very clear, if you know them but even if they're not, you would think that common sense would prevail," he said.


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