Man with service dog believes Petco's grooming area policy discriminates those with disabilities

WASHINGTON -- A major pet store chain's grooming policy has one local disabled man fighting for rights he believes were violated.

Ryan Honick, who has cerebral palsy, is never far away from his service dog, Pico.

But when he was told he couldn't go with his dog into the grooming area at Petco, he took matters into his own hands -- not just for himself, but for others with disabilities and service dogs.

Pico has been at Honick's beck and call for the last 18 months. The service dog is always at his side, but he is more than just a companion. What would normally be a day of insurmountable challenges for Honick is made doable because of Pico.

“The bond is unlike anything else that exists between humans and traditional pets,” said Honick. “He is never more than a few feet away from me at any given point. He helps me with anything I need -- picking up things that I drop constantly, helping me with automatic door switches, lights switches, drawers, anything that I need.”

Ironically during the week of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act last month, Honick faced an unexpected challenge while taking Pico for his regular grooming and bath.

“I was told by their new store manager that they were enforcing policy that did not allow pet parents, as Petco refers to them, in the back cutting area,” Honick told us.

But Honick said Pico is not a pet, but is a service dog with extensive training. He contends their working relationship could be damaged if they are apart. Also, should Pico be mishandled, that could interfere with how Pico helps Honick.

He said another concern about being apart from Pico during his grooming is that federal law requires he maintain control over his service dog at all times. If something were to go wrong, he would be in violation of federal law.

Petco responded to our inquiry by saying they welcome all guests, including those with disabilities, and they are committed to following Americans with Disabilities Act rules.

In a statement, Petco said, "Out of concern for the safety of our customers, their pets and our partners, the services areas in our grooming salons are not open to the public while pets are being groomed."

Honick has created a website called letpicowork.com to circulate a petition to get Petco to change its policy. He said he is doing it not just for himself, but for others who deal with similar struggles.

“We have made a lot of progress, but this shows that even now in 2015, that all progress we have made, we still have a lot of work to do,” said Honick.

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