By Robert C. Taylor
June 19, 2012
I am a veteran and disabled, I currently live in Florida and have a service dog that travels with me to aid with my disability. My wife (Laurie Housworth)
is a retired and disabled Army Officer and medical professional. She and I travel to the Big Island of Hawaii every year.
For the past 2 trips, I brought my service dog with me from Florida. and we have stayed at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) which is located inside Hawaii’s Volcano’s National Park.
Just over 2 weeks ago on May 10, 2012 around noon, my wife, my service dog and I went to the picnic area near the ball field inside KMC for a cookout.
We had just started the grill and my wife was beginning to cook our lunch when a Park Ranger (Tony Lutz) arrived in his vehicle. He approached us with
one hand on his hip and the other on his weapon. He could clearly see that our dog was a service animal because of his bright red vest with numerous service dog patches and I also told him he was a service animal.
When he arrived, my service dog was lying at my feet, his vest clearly visible and secured by a lead. If you are familiar with DOJ Laws regarding Service Dogs, you will know that my dog is not required to wear a vest or have ID. He is also not required
to have a leash as long as he is under my direct control.
My disability prohibits me at times from having my dog on his leash due to a back, head and neck injury. However, because many people are ignorant of the Law, I try to do everything possible to make it very apparent that my dog is a Service Dog.
My wife and I were not bothering any one or any thing. He immediately began questioning me and my wife with “what are you doing here?”, “Do you live here?”, “Are you locals?”, “Where are you from?” We told him that we were here on vacation and staying at KMC for the past 8 days and would be staying 2 more days.
We also told him we were from Florida. He demanded to see identification for my dog and me. I told him that under federal law, my dog does not have to
have an ID, but he did and if he would give me a moment I would get it out of my pocket. My wife asked him what the problem was and he said I need to talk to you, we both said go ahead. He refused to tell us what he wanted.
My wife showed him her ID and parking pass for KMC and told him we were in cabin K72. She tried to get in the car to drive to the KMC front desk and get
help with the situation from KMC personnel since we were within the KMC area and they were very aware that I had my service dog with me.
Ranger Lutz told her she wasn’t going anywhere and refused to let her leave with the car. I walked to the car and was reaching toward the car for balance and to steady myself when Ranger Lutz pushed me away with both hands. I fell backwards on the ground and hit my head and knocked out my anterior dental bridge. He knelt beside me to see if I was OK, I told him to not touch me or assault me again and to call EMS.
A few minutes later, 2 more Park Rangers, an undercover Ranger of some sort and EMT’s arrived. The EMT’s checked my vitals and gave me a quick examination.
While they were doing that my wife tried to tell the other Rangers that arrived what had happened and they told her to get away. A female Ranger asked
for my wife’s ID for her report and my name. My wife happily supplied her with these things. She took a statement from my wife on what happened. My wife was given a statement to write and I was also given a statement to write. My wife finished her statement and mine was taken from me before I got the chance to finish. I told the “undercover Ranger” and Ranger Lutz that I was not done and they threw the form at me and said finish it then, I needed more time because I had just hit my head and I have a pre-diagnosed brain injury which has affected and slowed my cognitive function.
The “undercover Ranger” said well I guess you’re done then and grabbed the form off of the table and said he was going to mark it that I was finished.
I asked the Rangers numerous times for a form to file a complaint against Ranger Lutz and told them I wanted him charged with assault. They never gave me the form. Then to add more insult to injury, they issued me a citation for “Failure to crate, cage, restrain or confine pet (dog).” My wife and I both got additional citations for “Interfering with Agency Function- Fail to obey lawful order.” We were never given a lawful order, did not disobey anything and do not have a PET- we have a SERVICE DOG and were acting within the laws and regulations of the Department of Justice and the Americans with Disabilities Act .
We contacted the deputy director of KMC- Mark who contacted the Head Ranger Supervisor Talmadge Mango who came to talk to us. Ranger Mango was smirking and grinning the entire time and seemed to think our ordeal was funny. He was unwilling to explain or do anything to remedy the situation. He would not give us the names of the other Rangers or EMT personnel; he would not supply us with the proper form to file a formal complaint against Ranger Lutz for assault. Instead he gave us a generic visitor’s complaint form for the park that we could mail back to the park so no outsiders would find out about what had happened.
He would not tell us why my wife and I were being charged with these offenses and would not explain the charges. He did say that Ranger Lutz
assumed we were locals because we were in Hawaii with a large dog and a car. That is stereotyping and discriminating in itself.
Even if we were locals, the same rules apply to service animals if you are local or from Florida like we are. Ranger Mango would not give us a court date but instead told us we needed to send the citation forms back.
Ranger Mango told us that the charge for having a pet would likely be thrown out by a judge because it states a
Pet and it’s not a Pet, it‘s a Service Dog. This still means another trip back to Hawaii creating more inconvenience, financial burden and difficulty for
both me and my wife.
The National Park Service has violated my Civil Rights, caused physical injury, pain, suffering. They have cause both my wife and me embarrassment, humiliation and ruined our vacation.
In addition, since my wife is a licensed medical professional (dentist) when she has to renew her dental license every 2 years, she will have to report
the Fail to Disobey a Lawful Order charges. This could significantly impact on her ability to retain her dental license and could consequently affect
her ability to work and our livelihood.
My service dog has been traumatized as well since he witnessed the assault by Ranger Lutz and has become very
protective of me. Since the incident he has been showing aggressive tendencies when in public or when someone comes near me and likely cannot be used as a service dog anymore.
Please help me with this matter so that the same discrimination and violation of other disabled individuals civil rights by the
National Park Service does not continue.
Editors Note: Robert is currently seeking legal representation and would appreciate any help in finding it.