Terry "Grizz" Hayhurst considers his service dog Nia his left hand gal.
"Nia's been trained specifically as a balance assist dog," he said. "I got her when she was six weeks old and she's seven and a half now. She went through about a year and a half of training.
Hayhurst was disabled after a spinal cord injury, and he said it's difficult to walk without Nia's assistance.
"Nia means Champion in Gaelic," he said. "But she helps to balance me out, because my one leg is significantly smaller than the other. Some people don't understand about service dogs, but I'm in a good position because I'm obviously a cripple."
But on Monday night, the situation was not so obvious. Hayhurst said he was simply trying to attend a public meeting at the Central Arkansas Library System's main location, but he ended up being arrested -- facing a charge of criminal trespass.
"Give up your rights or be arrested. So, I was arrested," he said of the choice he had to make.
"There are risks in not knowing exactly what we're dealing with," said Library Director Bobby Roberts. "We have 2.5 million people that come through the library."
According to Roberts, library security officers weren't sure of Nia's service dog status or Hayhurst's disability.
"This is a dog on a retractable leash that just looks like my pet dog. The person who has it doesn't appear to have any obvious disability," he said. "I think a reasonable person who looks at those images might conclude this is not a service dog."
And that, Roberts said, poses a safety concern for other library patrons.
"We have an obligation to the rest of the people in the library, we need to know its trained. What if a child came into contact with that dog," said Roberts. "It's a fairly stocky breed. We just need to know."
According to Roberts, Hayhurst refused to answer questions allowed under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), so security called police to have him escorted from the building when he refused to leave.
"Is this a service dog? And what is the service dog for?" Roberts said of the questions security asked. "It is my understanding he answered the first but not the second question."
"I think our security acted properly and when he did not answers the second question of what is this dog for, when he said he wasn't going to answer that and refused to leave, I think they had no choice but to call the police," Roberts added.
But according to Hayhurst, he answered all of the questions security had for him, in addition to questions they should not have under the ADA.
"It's just not true. I told them she was a balance assist dog, which is specifically listed as a service dog use in the ADA," Hayhurst said. "I answered both questions they were allowed to ask, and I even answered the question of 'What is your disability?' even though that's a complete violation."
"They wanted to see the dog's registration -- there's no such thing," he said. "I tried to show them a copy of the ADA, but they weren't interested in seeing that information."
According to Kaitlin Lott, who was attending the meeting Hayhurst was headed to, she can't remember if security asked what the dog's tasks were or if Hayhurst answered.
"But I do remember them asking for documentation for the dog, and he told them that wasn't required under the ADA. Then they asked him what his disability was," she said. "I can only hope all this is a misunderstanding."
According to the ADA guidelines, officials are allowed to ask if the animal is a service dog and what tasks it's been trained to perform. However, officials cannot ask about a person's disability or require paperwork be provided regarding the dog's training.
KARK was told by an ADA specialist that if someone refuses to answer the question regarding the dog's trained tasks, the business or public facility can request the dog be removed from the building. However, according to that specialist on the ADA hotline, a business cannot require the person to leave or deny them services.
Hayhurst believes this is an example of the need for education about the ADA, and he thinks the experience is a misunderstanding, one that may ultimately be worked out in court.
"There's just a lot of misconception. Frankly, this is something most people don't have to deal with," Hayhurst said.
According to Roberts, security is trained on the guidelines of the ADA and anyone who is covered by the law is welcome in the library, including those with service animals.
"If it turns out this animal was a service dog, and we're not saying it isn't, but if we were wrong we'll be the first to apologize," Roberts said. "We'll eventually get to the bottom of what it was."