Companion Dog Causing Allergies While Helping Fight Them

By Heather Legg

There’s a hot story in the news right now concerning a service dog and allergies. An Indianapolis woman, Emily Kysel, has a severe allergy to paprika. This allergy is so severe that if the spice is in the air around her, she can have a life threatening reaction. She has been to the emergency room five times and has had to use her injection pen on numerous occasions over the years.

Luckily for her, she has an allergy detection dog. Like the peanut sniffing or narcotic detecting dogs, her golden retriever has been trained to jump on her upon detection of paprika. Kysel works for the City of Indianapolis and received permission to take the dog to work.

Here’s where the problems started. One of her coworkers has asthma and is allergic to dogs, being around the dog sent her into an asthma attack. This was the first day the dog was at work.  That day, Ms. Kysel was told she could no longer have the dog at work.

According to a New York Times article:
Ms. Kysel filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, asserting that her employer had discriminated against her by failing to accommodate her disability. Legal experts say her case raises tough questions about how to balance the sometimes clashing interests of co-workers with disabilities and how far employers need to go to make reasonable accommodations for workers under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

This is such a tricky case. There are arguments for both sides, and who wins? There has been questioning of the legitimacy of the paprika allergy, even though Ms. Kysel has had supportive letters written by allergists stating the seriousness of the allergy. The question has been brought up of what if she was visually impaired and needed a service animal or had another type of condition that required one. Would she be allowed to have one at work even if coworkers were allergic?

But then there is the side of the woman with asthma and dog allergies. Should she be forced to be around something she is allergic to? Who gets to decide whose allergy is worse? Does one condition over ride the other?

It is an interesting dilemma, one I haven’t heard of before. I hope it works out for both parties. It’s taking national attention so I look forward to reading more about it and seeing how it unfolds.

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