Advocate for the blind educates Folly Beach cops

By Nikki

FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCIV) -- Folly Beach{}Police{}got a lesson in disabilities Tuesday night after recently telling a blind woman her guide dog had to leave the beach.

Officer Keegan was the one to give the order about the service dog on Mother's Day. This time, he invited Audrey Gunter with Dixieland Guide Dogs to lead a sensitivity training session.

"What's important here is that you all are allowing us to rectify a wrong," said Gunter.

With her own four-legged friend by her side, Gunter addressed more than a dozen firefighters and cops about the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Anywhere the public is invited, a service animal can go, too," she told them.

An ordinance on the books in Folly Beach says otherwise. It states that from May to September dogs aren't allowed on the beach from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Officers said Christine Hardee was in violation of that ordinance.{}Officer Keegan asked her to leave or be arrested.

"He was simply following instructions. Unfortunately, the ordinance was outdated," said Gunter.

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin says the ordinance is meant to protect the owner's pet during the hottest times of the day.

"Most people, if they have a service dog and a need for that companion, they would take very good care of them, and taking them to the beach in the middle of the day isn't necessarily taking good care of them," said Goodwin.

Gunter says there are a few exceptions to the federal law aimed at protecting people with disabilities.

"If they pose a nuisance to the public, if they bark, or if they growl, you can absolutely ask us to leave a premises because we don't have our dog under control," said Gunter to the public safety employees.

Christine Hardee says her{}dog was under control. Goodwin says the entire situation could have been avoided.

"The service dog wasn't marked. The person that was holding the dog at the time was not the dog was to be in service for," said Goodwin.

Working together with Folly Beach, Gunter hopes to make the ordinance more ADA compliant in the future.

"We will be more than happy to have our advocates help them re-write the policy to make it A-D-A compliant," said Gunter.

Gunter said that the Folly Beach Police chief did apologize to Hardee for the incident.