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Veteran Says His Service Dog is Making it Hard to Find a Job

ANKENY, Iowa  --  Tony Michael says before leaving his previous job of eight years, he had no problems accommodating his service dog Harold.

“We found a place, he was tucked out of the way, didn't bother anybody, nobody bothered him, I just went to him as I needed to,” said Michael.

A veteran of the war in the Middle East, Michael now says he’s starting to feel like that situation was an outlier.

“With lots of jobs that I've been applying for, as soon as I mention service dog, they're like, 'we don't know anything about service dogs, we'll have to check into it,' and then I don't get a call back,” said Michael.

The Puppy Jake Foundation helps train service dogs and provides them to veterans, and officials say legally employers need to treat anyone who uses service dogs the same as they'd treat someone in a wheelchair.

“Service dogs are treated just like any other disability. You can’t not hire someone because they have a disability, like with their gender or their race,” said Puppy Jake Foundation Board Member Josh Schoenblatt.

Michael says the challenge has him worrying about providing for his family and how Harold fits into his future.

“Oh my gosh, I'm not going to be able to find a job with a service dog, what am I going to do? Do I have to give him up? Do I have to leave him in his kennel at home all day by himself? I don't want to do that, he's in my family now, and I can't be without him,” he said.

Michael says he started his job hunt two and a half months ago, he says six employers have said no to accommodating Harold, and four said they have to check their policies.  One prospective job got back to Michael saying they didn't have room for a kennel. The Puppy Jake Foundation says legally, that's not an excuse.

“We understand that service dogs are still a new up and coming thing across the country. If there's any company that isn't sure what the laws are with service dogs or how to work with them, we're very open and up front and willing to educate the public on what [is] and isn't very legal," said Schoenblatt.

While the law does stipulate that businesses have to treat service animals like any other disability, there are exceptions. A job in which the employee is working with food and needs to meet specific sanitary conditions can deny employment due to the service animal.