Mother misses son’s wedding when church bans service dog

(Photo courtesy of CNN)

QUINCY, MI (CNN) – An upset mother blames a Michigan church for missing her son’s wedding because she says the church would not allow her service dog to attend with her.

Everywhere Mary Douglas goes, her service dog Stella follows. The woman is living with post-traumatic stress disorder and has had the service dog for almost two years.

But Stella wasn’t allowed to step into a church in Quincy, MI, which Douglas says ultimately caused her to miss her son’s wedding. She says she had a fear of relapse if she went to the area without her dog.

“I’ve cried a lot. It was a very sleepless night last night,” Douglas said.

The mother says missing the wedding is sparking emotions she needs Stella to calm.

“I’ve sacrificed as any single mom, any mom really, does for their children. For that not to be reciprocated, that honor not to be due to a mom on her son’s wedding day, it’s heartbreaking,” Douglas said.

Pastor Robert Montgomery says Douglas still could have been there for her son. He says the church gave three options for the dog a couple months before the wedding.

“There were several options given to try and accommodate and make this thing work but they were all refused, so it kind of put us in a difficult spot obviously,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery says the church has had a no animal policy for months, a policy that includes service dogs.

“The difficulty we find in letting animals in, so people know, if you have people that have a fear of animals or an allergy to animals, it makes it very difficult,” he said.

Douglas says the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to the church when it’s used for a public event. She says she filed a civil rights complaint, hoping to create awareness about service animals and help prevent discrimination.

“When there’s a disability that you can’t physically see with your eyes, it doesn’t mean that the disability is any less,” Douglas said.

Montgomery says he believes the issue is a misunderstanding and should be more of a family matter than a church matter.

Douglas’ complaint is now at the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.