Blind woman says service dog turned away from Folly Beach

By Valencia

FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCIV){}-- Christine Hardee has been asked about her seeing-eye dog before, but she's never been turned away. That changed on Mother's Day when she says a Folly Beach officer told her the service dog was not allowed to join her on the beach.

Over the last 4 years, Hardee's eyesight has{}weakened. So, she got Kya to help her cope.

"This dog is my lifeline. I mean, she does everything for me," Hardee said. "I have two small children that she helps me keep track of. I'm vulnerable to a criminal taking my purse or my kids. She's there to protect me from that."

On Mother's Day, Hardee says she and her family went to Folly for a quiet stroll on the beach. Like everywhere else, Kya joined them. But, before they could get to the beach, an officer came between them.

"We were stopped by a city ordinance officer, his name was Michael Keegan, and he told us that even though this was a service dog, the chief told him, no dogs, no exceptions," said Hardee. "And, told us we'd be ticketed and if we still insisted on staying -- arrested."

Hardee{}says she encounters this type of situation at least twice a week, but it's always quickly resolved. This time the officer would not back down and the Hardees were forced to go home.

"Legally, it surprises me because under the American Disabilities Act, a service dog which is not a pet is allowed in any public place -- Government buildings, banks, restaurants, even taxi cabs. And, if there were on the beach, they should have been allowed out there," said David Aylor, a local attorney.

Dogs are not allowed on Folly Beach, but the Hardee says she and her family{}were not given a clear reason why a service dog would not be an exception.

"Understandably so, dog laws are put on beaches for a reason. It's actually to protect other people. Unfortunately, this is a situation where this dog was not coming out there to play. It's a dog protecting someone with a disability," said Aylor.

ABC News 4 contacted Chief Dennis Brown. He said he was unaware of the incident and would not comment until finding out exactly what happened.