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Disability Action Center NW

Advocates Pursue Guide Dog for Blind Veteran

Although veteran Bill Yeager is still walking solo with the help of his white cane, he may have another chance for a guide dog if advocates Cecilia and Don Myers, and the City of Sandpoint have any say in the matter.

In April, Yeager, who is legally blind after suffering a stroke, came within a hair’s breadth of obtaining a much -needed canine guide and companion when a provider in San Rafael, Calif., Guide Dogs for the Blind, sent a dog and handler to Yeager for a week-long trial. The trainer determined that, due to unrestrained dogs rushing them along Ridley Village Road where Yeager lives, the situation was unsafe for the dog. Thus, Yeager lost the animal he had started to bond with due to neighboring dog owners’ disregard of city leash laws and Idaho State Code.

“Idaho Statutory law guarantees a blind person the legal right to be accompanied by a specially trained dog guide in all public accommodations and on all common carriers,” according to Titles 56 and 58. “Any person who permits any animal, which is owned, harbored or controlled by him to cause injury to or the death of any assistance dog or dog-in-training, is guilty of a misdemeanor,” it states in Sect 18-5812 if Title 58.

Don Myers contacted city officials for help when his friend Yeager lost his chance to keep the service dog. Police Chief Corey Coon and City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton are working with him to solve the problem.

“In our discussions with Mr. Myers, we have reminded him that if this concern should arise again, our police department should be notified immediately so they can respond,” said Stapleton. “Additionally, our police department has done extra patrols in the neighborhood over the past couple of weeks and has made contact with some of the neighbors.”

The Myers’s have helped Yeager find another guide dog training organization, Leader Dogs for the Blind, based in Rochester Hills, Mich. Established in 1939 by the Lions Club, the organization offers a free, 26-day residential training program for qualified candidates and their new dogs, according to its website.

Leader Dogs officials are currently reviewing Yeager’s application, with plans to make a home visit in late May, Myers said.

“When they come, I’ll be out on that street patrolling every day to make sure those dogs aren’t funning loose,” he said.

“Chief Coon has also offered to walk along with Mr. Yeager, the trainer and the new guide dog initially, Stapleton said.