T.J. Maxx Turns Away Marathon Bomb Survivor Over Service Dog

Bombing Survivor Gets Apology After Service Dog Got Her Booted from Store

Here's a way to generate some terrible PR for your store: Kick out a survivor of last year's Boston bombing because she brought her service dog along. That's what happened at the T.J. Maxx in Nashua, NH when the manager told Boston Marathon bombing survivor Sydney Corcoran that she had to put Koda into a carriage or leave the store, according to WCVB-TV.

She did. In tears.

Corcoran was caught in the April 15, 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon. She suffered shrapnel wounds and now deals with post-traumatic stress disorder on a daily basis. Her mother, Celeste Corcoran, lost both legs in the explosion.

Koda, the service dog, has become a constant comfort and help to the 19-year-old. "Honestly, I sleep better now," Corcoran told WCVB. "I used to have a really hard time because my mind would always just be going in overdrive."

"It's almost like a miracle, you know, like what an animal can do for you when you have that bond and that connection," her mother said.

That little miracle travels with the younger Corcoran and helps her navigate the problems that post-traumatic stress disorder can create. According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD symptoms can include changes in emotional behavior like always being on guard for danger or living with guilt; upsetting dreams and severe emotional distress; memory problems, hopelessness about the future; trouble sleeping; and flashbacks.

Although dogs are not a substitute for effective PTSD treatment, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, they can help some people deal with parts of living with the emotional disability.

But the help Corcoran needs was denied her by the manager at T.J. Maxx, as she told WCVB.

"He had on his service dog vest -- bright blue, says 'service dog' all over it," Sydney said of Koda, noting that, under federal law, service dogs aren't even required to wear those vests. "The store manager came over to me and said to me, 'If you want to keep your dog in the store, you have to put him in the carriage.'"

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, businesses "that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go." Dogs trained to help people with PTSD are included in the definition of service dogs.

Furthermore, New Hampshire state laws also require service dog access, according to the Animal Legal & Historical Center. Service dogs includes those trained to help with "physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability," and retail shops are explicitly included as a covered "place of public accommodation."

Corcoran left the store in tears and called her mother. The manager apologized later, but Celeste Corcoran said, "That's not good enough. You should have known," as she said in the WCVB interview. T.J. Maxx has also released a statement apologizing for the incident and saying that it will ensure employees understand the laws relating to service animals.

Both mother and daughter, along with Celeste Corcoran's sister, ran the 2014 Boston Marathon and finished in 4 hours, 33 minutes, according to a picture from the New York Daily News.
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