Social Security Guard Assaults Patron with Service Dog

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A Barrow County, Georgia woman suffered bruises and a shoulder injury when a guard at a local Social Security office tried to throw her out because she had a service dog. Melissa McMann suffers from a degenerative retinal condition that rendered her legally blind. “In places like dark buildings, I virtually have no sight,” McMann told WSBT reporters.

McMann said she commonly answers questions about where service dogs are permitted – which is essentially everywhere the public is allowed.

But on Thursday afternoon, McMann was told she was unwelcome at a Winder Social Security office. She and her husband had intended to complete paperwork for an adopted child when an armed security guard approached them and told them they had to leave because dogs were not permitted in the facility.

The dog was wearing a sign and a guide harness, and the couple made it clear that their service dog was legally allowed to accompany them. The guard demanded that they produce paperwork to prove their case. When they could not, the guard grabbed Melissa and attempted to forcefully remove her from the premises. Her husband had seen enough, and decided it was time to call the police.

An officer arrived shortly thereafter, and the guard, Leroy Huff, admitted to using physical force to try to remove McMann from the premises.  He also agreed that she had offered no resistance, but felt that as a federal officer he did not need to involve the police.

Huff was wrong on both counts. Security guards are not federal officers and must defer to police in such matters. As a result, an arrest warrant has been issued, and Huff faces battery charges in the case. Huff says he plans to turn himself in shortly, but McMann is patient and accommodating, and says she doesn’t think he needs to go to court.

“All that we’re looking for at this point is for the security company that has the contract with Social Security to understand the importance of educating all of the people that work for them as to the laws regarding service dogs and also with regard to not placing their hands on people – you just can’t go placing your hands on people.”

18 thoughts on “Social Security Guard Assaults Patron with Service Dog”

  1. As Social Security is a government agency and at least one part of SS has to do with disabled and elderly persons it is shocking and unbelievable to me that SS would contract with a security company without properly screening that company for what kinds of employees it has. Out west there have been some extreme examples in non-government offices or retail establishments such as malls of security companies actually hiring ex-cons to “enforce security.” EX CONS!!!

    I look at this kind of thing and here’s my take. Certain careers attract certain kinds of people. In this world today it has become a very attractive thing, an enticement to certain kinds of people, to actually collect a paycheck for being mean, verbally abusive, physically abusive, and to have the right to be powerful enough to kill without retribution and be given the means to do so. If you doubt? Then just look at the recent federal case which took almost six years to get a conviction on the New Orleans police who shot innocent Katrina evacuees — in the BACK. Look at all the news reports of armed “authorities” killing first and asking questions later. Assaulting disabled (mentally or physically). Killing them, even. Killing dogs and then lying about how the dog was going to “attack” them and they were just killing in self defense.

    It is PAST time for citizens to stand up against this kind of bullying and brutality. I would bet esp. in Georgia where this occurred there will be a plea bargain where the bully will skate or the judge will effectively rule “now now there’s a leetle bad boy here let’s just tap tap on your wrist now go back out and do BAD.”

    I hope this woman and her husband have the courage to hold firm against what was done to her. The system is overwhelming and very hard – nearly impossible – to fight. She needs to recruit support among organizations that fight for the LEGAL RIGHTS of persons in her situation. I really hope she does.

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  2. I don’t like the rough handling of McMann. It’s uncalled for however if she has been in public with her certified service dog she is aware of the requirement to carry the appropriate paperwork to substantiate her service dog being allowed in public areas. It’s like a driver’s license you have to carry it with you when you are using the dog. Shame on Huff for the rough handling but also shame on her for not having her paperwork.

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    • There is no federal registration for service dogs, nor is there a requirement to vest them. Gate keepers are allowed to ask if it is a service dog, and they have to take the word of the handler. If either the dog or the handler are behaving inappropriately, then they can be asked to leave. The laws are all currently in favor of the disabled in those regard. I frequently forget paperwork, and sometimes don’t vest when it is too hot out. But then I have also gotten a service dog tag by registering with my state, so in a pinch I can show her state assistance dog tag.

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  3. I purchased a vest for my service dog with a zipper pocket where I store his immunization records, his service dog registration, a couple of poop bags, and a handy, one page explanation of service dogs & the ADA rules. My dog wears a registration card on his vest. I’ve only had to produce the paperwork once (AMTRAK) but I expect that, until the public and employees get up to speed, there will be a time. Usually, if an employee is “clueless” you need only ask for the manager. If that doesn’t work, quietly ask for the name of the owner of the establishment, contact information, and their lawyer’s name to receive the lawsuit. The face this was a Soc. Security office boggles the mind.

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    • I’m tired of people that claim to be clueless. Guide dogs have been in our culture since for at least the last 40 years and service dogs have been in existence for quite some time as well. I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to educate business owners. They were capable of opening a business and they are capable of knowing what they’re responsible for.

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  4. I work in a mall where pets are not allowed unless they are carried or in a carrier. Maybe I am ignorant but I find it hard to believe the amount of service dogs that come to the mall that are of the taco bell variety and size that are actually service dogs and not just people that know we can’t ask them to leave if they claim it is.

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  5. “service dogs” DO come in all breeds, shapes and sizes, and for many purposes, not always immediately apparent to an untrained or poorly trained “security guard”. i’ve worked in that trade and its all too common that the average “rent-a-cop” does not know the limits of his “authority”, and he is certainly not a “sworn officer” unless he is a police officer working security as a second job on his off duty hours. the only “power of arrest” a “security guard” has is the same “citizen’s arrest” anyone has in common law, and that does not give any right to beat , assault or “imprison” anyone. i hope the lady in this case lays charges of assault against this clown, and gets herself a good lawyer for a civil suit against both him and his employer.

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  6. There was an update that the abusive securityguard, Leroy Huff, has turned himself in and is presently lodged in the County jail.

    Turns out it’s worse than just the local Social Security agency office contracting with the security service for ARMED guards. The government agency that DID hire the security service for ARMED guardes was none other than Homeland Security.

    I would have to ask just exactly why arguably the most powerful federal agency ever in existence AND that’s supported by our taxpayer dollars is so carelessly hiring ARMED guards that it would allow this type of personnel to be in any government office especially where there are sure to be physically challenged and old persons. By its nature Social Security is there to serve the physically disabled, mentally disabled and elderly among others in the population of course but mostly them.

    I also note that the securityguard was black and the legally blind woman was white. And, after all, it was in Georgia where this happened where there are still strong race bias issues in both directions going on. So – My question is, was there an element of race going on here? I hope not but I do think this needs to be investigated too.

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