EXCLUSIVE: Boy denied service dog by New York City Health Department, school

Jim Dolan Image
ByJim Dolan via WABC logo
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
EMBED <>More Videos

Jim Dolan speaks exclusively to the boy and his mother in the Bronx.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A young boy in New York City who desperately needs a service dog to be his partner is running into an insensitive wall of bureaucracy.

Sundance is a cute puppy, but he's so much more than that. He could someday save a life, Daniel's life.

"We got all his stuff. His bowls, his leash, all his stuff," said Daniel Riley, diabetic.

"I have a pod, and I check my blood sugar, and if I need a correction or if I'm eating I give my carbs and the pod tells me how much insulin," Daniel said.

9-year-old Daniel has Type 1 diabetes. It doesn't slow him down much, he plays sports and lives a pretty normal life, but is always aware of what happened when he was 2 years old and could happen again. It almost killed him.

"Diabetic ketoacidosis," Daniel said.

But a group called "Dads of America" offered Daniel's mom Sundance, the specially, highly-trained Golden Retriever.

"It warns me 30-40 minutes before I go low or high" Daniel said.

"That's better than you could do on your own," Eyewitness News Reporter Jim Dolan said.

"Yes," Daniel said.

"I still need to be aware of his numbers before or after," said Daneen Gazzola, Daniel's mother.

"If you had the dog, would some of those fears, some of that anxiety go away?" Dolan asked.

"Yes, absolutely," Gazzola said.

So we'd like to show you Daniel and his dog working together, playing together.

Daniel and his mom would sure like that, but his family hasn't been able to get Sundance yet.

Daniel's mom went to the city Department of Health to notify them her son would be bringing a service animal to Daniel's school and, as bureaucracies do, they had her fill out a form.

A couple weeks later, "They responded the application was denied," Gazzola said.

The city Department of Education told Eyewitness News, "The DOE is reviewing the details of the request to determine the level of involvement that is required as this is a nonpublic school."

But the school, St. Clare of Assisi in the Bronx can't allow the dog until the city gives its OK. Lawyers who study this say the law is clear.

"I don't see what the issue is. If it's a service animal in a facility or school it has to be allowed," said Peggy Collen, attorney.

Well, Daniel's no lawyer, but he doesn't see what the issue is either.

"It helps me monitor my blood sugar and it helps me live a happy life," Daniel said.

School ends next Friday. Daniel may get Sundance then.