‘Devastating’ Ruling for Woman

Springfield News-Leader (Springfield, MO) – Copyright 2009 Gannett

A Springfield woman who fought to have her monkey declared a service animal said Thursday she was shocked a federal judge rejected her lawsuit.

“It’s devastating; it’s devastating,” Debby Rose said of the outcome of her lawsuit against the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, Cox Health and Walmart.

“I feel like I’m discriminated against in Greene County. What can I say?”

Federal Judge Richard Dorr ruled that Rose’s monkey — Richard — was not a service animal and that she was not disabled.

Rose and her attorney could appeal in an effort to obtain a service animal status for Richard so she can take him in restaurants and other places. “I can only pray that we do,” she said. “It’s all up to my attorney, of course.”

James Arneson, the attorney who represents Rose, said he does not comment on judges’ rulings.

The judge issued a summary judgment — a ruling without going to trial — about Richard’s status, denying Rose’s claim that she is covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Rose originally filed the case in Greene County Circuit Court. It sought damages, compliance with the ADA and expenses related to the lawsuit.

She claimed to suffer from agoraphobia and anxiety.

Dorr noted in his ruling that although Rose claimed to suffer from the disabling conditions since the 1970s, she married three times, raised six children, worked at a variety of jobs, owned an animal rescue refuge, moved in and out of Missouri several times and was not diagnosed until 2006.

Rose disputed that date Thursday, saying she was diagnosed in 2001.

The judge also ruled the Springfield-Greene County Health Department acted properly in determining the Bonnet Macaque monkey Rose purchased in 2004 was not a service animal and by warning businesses that they may violate state food codes if they admitted Richard.

Walmart refused to allow Rose in stores after receiving the letter and Cox Health determined that allowing a monkey into its facilities could pose a threat from transmission of herpes B infection.

The hospital said Rose could attend classes at Cox College, but could not bring Richard with her.

Kevin Gipson, director of the health department, said the judge’s ruling is logical. The department took a stance that a monkey was not a suitable service animal.

“It just kind of sustained what our feelings were,” Gipson said.

He added that area residents who used recognized service animals don’t need to be concerned about the ruling.

“It really doesn’t affect trained service animals,” he said.

In the future, local health departments may not have to deal with cases such as Richard’s. That’s because the federal government is considering stricter definition of what a service animal is to eliminate exotic animals from that designation, Gipson said.

Rose claimed Richard was a service animal because he did such things as “breaking the spell” and “breaking off the focus.” But the judge found Richard’s activities did not address any disabilities Rose might have.

Instead, Richard offered Rose comfort as a pet, the judge ruled.

Rose said not being able to take Richard with her restricts her activities.

“I won’t be able to function,” she said. “I can’t say anymore. I can’t do it without him.”

“I won’t be able to function. I can’t say anymore. I can’t do it without him. “

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