- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 23, 2017

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The Vermont Human Rights Commission said it has grounds to believe a Montpelier convenience store and deli illegally asked a customer to leave because of his service dog.

The customer uses a service dog because of a past traumatic brain injury and a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis, the commission said in a report.

The report said store manager Christie Hamel questioned whether the animal was a service dog because it was not wearing a vest or uniform. She said she also asked the customer to leave because he was causing a disturbance, The Burlington Free Press reported (http://bfpne.ws/2qQXWQ7 ).

A store operator may only ask two questions about a service dog - whether it’s required because of a disability and what has the animal been trained to perform, the commission said.

The animal isn’t required to wear a vest to be considered a service dog, the report said.

“There is more than sufficient evidence that Ms. Hamel failed to abide by the service animal statute and rules,” the Human Rights Commission said in the report. The commission voted 4-1 on May 11 on a finding that there are reasonable grounds that discrimination occurred.

The commission’s executive director has six months to work on a settlement between the two parties. If none is reached, the commission may seek court action.

Executive Director Karen Richards said the commission receives a lot of service animal-related complaints, and that there’s a lack of understanding about the laws.

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Information from: The Burlington Free Press, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com

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