Folly Beach says it was wrong to force woman and guide dog from beach
By Eric Eganeegan@abcnews4.com
FOLLY BEACH, SC (WCIV) -- A blind woman booted off Folly Beach because of her guide dog should have been allowed to stay on the beach.
Wednesday, the city said it was wrong when it asked Christine Hardee, who's blind, to leave the beach with her service dog on Mother's Day.
Folly Police Chief Dennis Brown tells ABC News 4 the law his officer was following, when he asked the woman to leave, is outdated. The chief said the misunderstanding highlights the need for change.
The federal law that's been in place for 20 years, the American Disabilities Act, lets a guide dog go nearly everywhere with its owner.
"A service animal is allowed anywhere the individual is allowed, anywhere the public is allowed," said Audrey Gunter, the president of Dixieland Guide Dogs.
Gunter, who's also blind, says Sunday's incident, when Hardee was forced to leave the beach with her dog by a Folly officer, could have been avoided.
"It was a gross misunderstanding," she said. "I don't think Officer Keegan had any intention of violating anyone's civil rights. He was just following an ordinance and he did not know the law passed over 20 years ago, the American Disabilities Act."
The law on Folly Beach says this time of year no dogs can be on the beach between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., no exceptions. Wednesday, Brown said he wanted to personally apologize to Hardee.
According to Gunter, she will now lead a sensitivity training session for Folly Beach Police and Fire next week.
"I told them it was available, I said it might be an amicable agreement for everyone, a positive result to an unfortunate situation," Gunter said.
City leaders say the dog ordinance was originally established to protect animals during the hottest times of day.
A service animal is not allowed to accompany its owner in public, only if the owner does not have control of animal.
For more information on Dixieland Guide Dogs visit www.dixielandguides.org.