Doctor Kicks Blind Man and His Guide Dog Out of Clinic

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A Bensalem, PA man and his guide dog were not just refused service by a local doctor’s office – they were actually asked to leave the building.

Dr. Priya Punjabi demanded that Joseph Cichonski and his dog Hero leave her clinic on the 4th of August, saying that a large animal could frighten patients. Punjabi maintains that she has every right to decide who can and cannot enter her office.

Lawyer and advocate for the disabled, Rocco Iaculla, strongly disagrees. “You cannot exclude service animals except in very specific situations,” he said in an interview with “Unless the animal is out of control or not housebroken or someone nearby has a severe allergic reaction, you must permit them in any area that the public is permitted. It has to be more than someone feeling uncomfortable with an animal present.”

Cichonski and his wife visited Punjabi’s office for her previously scheduled physical. While Cichonski’s wife was waiting to be treated, Punjabi approached him in the waiting room and told him that pets weren’t allowed in the office. The doctor told him to take his dog and leave the premises.

“I told her that it’s not a pet, it’s a guide dog, but she still said I couldn’t have him in there,” Cichonski told the newspaper. “How many pets do you know that can be declared on your federal income tax forms?”

Punjabi would not back down, so Cichonski left the office in order to avoid causing a scene. And then he called the police. His wife joined him after being told that she would not be treated unless the dog left.

Cpl. Michael Wojnar of the Lower Southampton Police Department arrived shortly thereafter and spoke with Punjabi. On Wednesday, Wojnar confirmed that a complaint had been filed.

Punjabi, who said she is afraid of dogs, maintains that the matter was handled appropriately. “We simply asked him to step outside,” she said. “I have my rights and my phobias, too.”

Meanwhile, Cichonski says he’s exploring his options. “I’m not trying to cause a fuss,” he added. “I just want to let people know that things like this are happening and I’d like to prevent them from happening to other people with disabilities.”

20 thoughts on “Doctor Kicks Blind Man and His Guide Dog Out of Clinic”

  1. This is one rare case where I say “Go Get Em” to the lawyer.A clear case where the doctor is going to loose,hands down.

  2. EDUCATION is the key here. As a “foster mum” for future service dogs I experience this reaction on a weekly basis (*and these pups are not yet certified). After 5 years I have noticed a good change (in the publics response) in places that I go to frequently.
    Repeated exposure can decrease the fear or cultural adversion.
    This Doc will now have to deal with the legalities and penalties with turning away a certified service dog . Note: she is now part of the American culture.

    I do hope another Doc in the area will now step up and welcome Hero into their office.

  3. There is more coverage and many comments and links on myfoxphilly dot com (news service in that area). One person who posted had an extremely unpleasant encounter with this doctor which she details in her comment. Also there is a link to a physician rating service and apparently this doctor rated barely over one star on a four-star rating system. In addition this doctor is also posting some rather self-serving excuses on the rating service website. Her bio appears there and yes she is from a country that considers dogs to be worse than filth.

  4. Hope that doctor has many patients who are animal lovers and they decide to take their business elsewhere. This should not be tolerated. This dog was working. What if she had a patient in a wheelchair and there was a person pushing that person into the waiting room- would she ask that person pushing to leave? Same thing- that person was doing a job, just like the dog. The disabled have rights and this gentleman’s were violated.

  5. Could the doctor be of a religion that does not approve of dogs?

    She needs to be counseled by the state medical board that she may not discriminate against the disabled by denying a service dog and its owner access to her office again; if she does, she should lose her license to practice for violation of law.


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