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Delays in service dog case decision

By John Geluardi Daily Planet Staff
Friday March 09, 2001



A judge delayed a decision Wednesday in a case related to the arrest of an apparently able-bodied man who claimed he was disabled and insisted on bringing his service dog, King, an 80-pound German shepherd into a Berkeley restaurant. 

Michael Minasian has filed a request with Alameda County Superior Court to have the arrest removed from his record. Minasian claims there were no grounds for the arrest and the record may hurt employment opportunities. Superior Court Judge Carol Brosnahan said she was not prepared to rule on Minasian’s request and put off her decision until April 9, Minasian said. 

“I was led to believe at yesterday’s hearing that the judge intends to learn the nature of my disability,” Minasian said. “And that is a violation of the American Disabilities Act.” 

According to the ADA disabled individuals can refuse to disclose the nature of their disabilities to maintain privacy. This section of the ADA can cause confusion when a person who appears to be perfectly healthy claims to be disabled and wishes to bring a service animal into a restaurant where state and local laws prohibit animals. 

In September, 2000, Minasian walked with King into the Jupiter Restaurant for a Caesar salad and ended up spending 17 hours in Santa Rita jail. The restaurant manager Joe Bisbiglia asked him to leave with the dog and Minasian replied he was disabled and that King was a service animal. 

But Minasian, who has no apparent disability, refused to disclose the nature of his disability citing his right to privacy under the Americans With Disabilities Act and presented no documentation or service animal license for King. A scene ensued and police arrested Minasian for trespassing. 

In addition to his filing with the Alameda Superior Court, he has asked for a ruling from the Civil Rights Department of the U.S. Department of Justice, filed a complaint with the Police Review Commission and brought the incident to the attention of the Commission on Disability. 

At a Feb. 1 appearance in Brosnahan’s court there was almost another incident when Minasian arrived with King and the judge refused to let him in the courtroom without some kind of documentation verifying King was a service animal or Minasian was disabled.  

Brosnahan relented when Minasian produced a letter from his doctor. 

“The judge was close to denying me my right to due process and luckily I had the letter, but I think it was wrong to have to present it,” Minasian said.  

Brosnahan did not ask for any certification in court on Wednesday. 

Commission on Disability Chair Miya Rodolfo-Sioson said the disabled should not be required to produce documents for service animals.  

“What if somebody who relies on a service dog doesn’t have a license or certification with them for some reason,” she said. “They should be able to just say they have a disability.” 

The district attorney decided not to file the trespassing charge against Minasian. But, According to Minasian, Deputy District Attorney Lance Cubo argued forcefully that his arrest record should not be cleared. Cubo did not return calls from the Daily Planet before press time on Thursday. 

“I think 100 years from now this treatment of the disabled will be looked on as bigotry,” Minasian said. “In my opinion this is bigotry and all bigotry is just ignorance.” 

Mianasian still refuses to disclose the nature of his disability.