A Veteran named Mr. Silva recently filed a complaint with the Department of Justice after being kicked our of Veteran’s Memorial Park and Museum with his service dog Sophia. They caught the attention of park ranger Roger Cramer who questioned why Silva had parked in a disabled spot and why Sophia, wearing her service dog vest, was not on a leash.
Mr. Silva who is 38 and has been authorized a disability placard for his license plate due to a disability that causes him to have mobility issues. The park ranger wasn’t buying it and began to have a heated conversation with Silva and his partner. The Ranger called the couple combative and refused their request for his name and title. Tapia, Silva’s partner, said she felt afraid and called the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Mr. Silva filed a complaint with the County regarding the Ranger and was not satisfied with the response. Silva then filed a complaint with the Department of Justice and eventually sued the county in federal court under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“It’s a three year battle that has now come to an end,” said Silva, who served in the Army and National Guard for a total of six years and was injured in Iraq. “I can start continuing on with my life.”
The county reached a settlement with Silva in the suit that requires posting “service animals are welcome” at all 200 or so of its parks. The county must also ensure that information about registered service animals is included in annual employee training about accommodations required for disabled people under federal and state law.
The county employs an Americans With Disabilities Act coordinator who will ensure that annual training addresses service animals, Barge said.
“I’ll have her train all of my parks staff if necessary,” he said.
Silva said he does not look for trouble but considers himself an advocate for disability rights.
“I’m just trying to go and out and enjoy myself at a local park,” he said. “Unfortunately, people are ignorant of the law. When they confront me, I will stand up for myself.”
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