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Veteran says service dog was denied access during dental visit

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MANCHESTER, CT (WFSB) -

A woman said when she went to the dentist's office, she got turned away because she wanted to bring her service dog into the exam room. The dental office said what they did was within the law.

Veteran Lauren Trathen told Eyewitness News she went to the dentist for a consultation for her wisdom teeth, but was so traumatized she won't return. Meanwhile, officials with Columbia Dental said they tried to reasonably accommodate her.

"My father served in the Army," Trathen said. "It wasn't a pressure thing but I just remember the pride he took putting on his uniform."

Trathen followed in her dad's footsteps, but her military career was cut short after a horrific accident.

"A broken shoulder we're trying to rehabilitate," Trathen said. "A broken foot and then I also experienced military sexual trauma from another soldier."

Because of her PTSD, Trathen got Basil to help with the flashbacks and the anxiety. While it was a welcomed gift, she said her service dog was not welcomed by the staff of the Manchester Columbia Dental office.

"The dog couldn't come with me into the procedure room," Trathen said. "I asked 'why,' she said it was a sterile environment, 'can he go wait in the car.'"

Trathen said she tried to explain her disability, but the doctor wasn't budging.

"He just gathered up his paperwork and said 'We're not going to be able to see you' - just left the room," Trathen said.

"It appears to be a miscommunication," Jeffery Smith with Columbia Dental said.

Officials with Columbia Dental said in many cases it does allow service animals in public areas. But in this case, the operating room was off limits.

"Reasonable accommodations needed to be made. She was offered to be seen in his office. His personal office she refused," Smith said.

Trathen said she only refused because she wanted some place more private away from other patients.

"It now makes me scared to go back to a dentist office," Trathen said.

Trathen said she is considering taking legal action against the office for violation of the American Disabilities Act.

Officials with Columbia Dental said its actions were within the law.

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