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Veteran, service dog cope with obstacles in Bismarck

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- A Canadian veteran who lives in South Dakota has encountered some obstacles in her weekly visits to Bismarck with her service dog.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A Canadian veteran who lives in South Dakota has encountered some obstacles in her weekly visits to Bismarck with her service dog.

Retired Canadian Armed Forces veteran Dawn Ottman drives to Bismarck weekly from Lemmon, South Dakota, with her service dog Benz for post-traumatic stress disorder treatments, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Benz goes everywhere with her and is trained to sense when she's having a panic attack, but Ottman and Benz have been turned away temporarily from two Bismarck businesses.

A couple months ago, a movie theater wouldn't sell her a movie ticket at first before she made a lengthy case. She was able to enter the theater but later left because she was too upset.

Theater manager Russell Fix said he wasn't made aware of the situation, but that the theater allows service animals and all employees are told as such.

Late last month, Ottman was booking a room at AmericInn when an employee told her about its "no pets" policy. Ottman said she told the employee that Benz is a service dog, but Ottman said she had to call the hotel's corporate office to get a resolution.

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Don Baugh, interim general manager of the Bismarck hotel, said the employee was new and didn't know about the exception for service animals. He said as a result of the incident, he has made sure employees are aware of the exception.

Corinne Hofmann, policy and operations director at the North Dakota Protection and Advocacy Project, said the agency doesn't often run into this problem. Hofmann said there have been two or three complaints statewide in the past several years.

"It's not a common complaint because people are usually pretty accommodating," Hofmann said.

People facing issues with businesses such as the ones Ottman has encountered in Bismarck should try to inform the establishments about the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Annie Strickland, an administrator who does client services at Service Dogs for America, a national nonprofit based in the community of Jud in North Dakota. She said some business may simply not be aware of the federal law.

"It's just a matter of educating the business because they might not understand service dog laws. They might not understand the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they just assume that this dog isn't allowed in," Strickland said.

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