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Sask. veteran says service dog banned from church for alerting others of his distress

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A Saskatchewan veteran has filed a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) after claiming his service dog was turned away at a Regina church sanctuary.

Dan Baker was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety after spending more than a decade in the military.

He and his wife found their dog Loki at a rescue shelter and trained him as a service dog. He completed his training in February 2022.

“If [Loki] senses I am anxious, he tries to block me or get me out of [a situation],” Baker explained. “Or he’ll put his head on my lap.”

After Baker suffered a heart attack last year, Loki was also trained to notify others should Baker fall.

“Usually for him, it’s to lick my face to check if I am okay,” Baker said.

Baker and his wife have attended ROC Church International in Regina for around five years.

In summer 2023, Baker fell while attending a Sunday service.

“[Loki] did what he is trained to do,” Baker recalled. “He came over and licked my face, but because I didn’t get up, he let out one bark.”

When Baker and his wife returned to service a few weeks later, he claimed Loki was not allowed inside.

“Their words were, ‘he disrupts the Holy Spirit,’” Baker said.

Baker added the experience has affected Loki as well.

“Since that day, I am the one comforting him,” he said. “Now I have a dog with PTSD.”

Baker feels he and his service dog have been discriminated against and has filed a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.

In an email to CTV News, the commission said it does not discuss or disclose the particulars of complaints for “privacy reasons.”

“In many cases, these negotiations provide a faster, more co-operative method of resolving complaints. If the matter cannot be settled, the Commission will investigate the matter,” the email read.

The Chief Commissioner could mediate or dismiss the case, send it to a hearing or deal with it another way.

The case could also be deferred to an alternative process more appropriate to resolving the matter.

ROC Church International did not return multiple calls requesting response to Baker’s complaint.

Baker hopes his experience can be a positive for others with service dogs, like Loki.

“Education is number one,” he said. “Service dogs are a medical aid, just like crutches or wheelchairs.”

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