Kiddle Ordinance passes in Hallandale Beach

Commissioner Michele Lazarow and Honey the Dog
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By: Michele Lazarow, Hallandale Beach Commissioner

I have always wanted to fight for those who could not fight for themselves. Once I realized that putting an official title in front of my name would be the best way to impact change, I ran for political office. I am now a Hallandale Beach City Commissioner.

I fight against all animal cruelty, but mostly I fight against the sales puppy mill puppies in pet stores. On one kiddleafternoon while I was at an event in Miami, I met Debbie Dietz and she told me about Kiddle’s Law. Hardly hearing about it and before I had even read it, I said yes without hesitation. I wasted no time asking our city attorney to a draft a version for Hallandale Beach. I told our attorney that whatever obstacles there were, we needed to make it work. She worked with Matthew Dietz to draft the best law possible for our first responders and residents.

I have three rescue dogs and spend time at the dog park. That was where I first met Polett Villalta and her service dog, Brandi. Polett is a long time resident of Hallandale Beach and is very active in our community. I had asked her what she thought about Kiddle’s Law and that was when Polett told me about a sad and scary experience that had happened to her and Brandi. After hearing about Polett’s experience of her dog being attacked and having to wait for her mother to come to her aid, I knew this was necessary for not only Hallandale Beach, but all cities.

If our first responders are able to take our human family members to hospitals during times of crisis, why shouldn’t our service animals be treated the same? Our animals are just as much a part of our family and no one should have to feel powerlessness when their family member is injured. I know how I have felt when one of my dogs was sick and I am able to drive her to the hospital. The idea that my dog would be injured or sick and not being able to get her to a hospital would be a constant concern. I feel great to know that we have kiddle logo with dog in harnessa law in place that hopefully help protect anyone from experiencing that fear. I knew that my colleagues would support it without hesitation. As a result of our passage other Broward county cities are now considering Kiddle’s Law. If there is ever anyone who would like to pass this in their city, I would be more than happy to help. Please do not hesitate to contact me.

Michele Lazarow,  City Commissioner Hallandale Beach

Polett Villata’s Email:

“In 2007 as I was in my power wheelchair “riding” along Layne Blvd with my Service Dog, a man was rolling down the street in skates with a beautiful Siberian Husky off-leash. The Husky saw my dog and lunged at her, pinning her down and injuring her in multiple places. The dog’s owner ran over, grabbed his dog and took off without saying a word, calling for help or anything.

Now well, as a quadriplegic there was not much I could do to help my dog. She was crying, bleeding and helpless at the end of my leash. Luckily my Mother was a block away and drove over as soon as I called her, taking my dog to the vet for me.

Service animals are specifically trained to release all control to their owners. They trust us to keep them safe. That night I didn’t only lose thousands of dollars in training, plus vet bills, I lost my dog’s trust completely, and even though she still respects my

Polett Villalta

Polett Villalta

leadership, I no longer take her into public places as she’ll bark and try to hide under my chair anytime people approach.

Having 90% of my body not working, sitting in a wheelchair with a leashed dog who is injured, needing help and TRUSTING me to keep her safe and nobody around to assist is an extremely frustrating and powerless experience. I was “lucky” that my Mother was close by that night; this proposal – which I was delighted to hear about – would provide me a sense of relief in knowing that should I ever find myself in that situation again, I can call for help, get my Service Dog taken care of immediately, and focus on keeping her safe, healthy, trusting and working once such ordeal is over.

This would also empower our Police Department and/or Fire Rescue in my opinion, by providing them the legal grounds to assist without risking their jobs. I always say that Hallandale Beach has the BEST PD, and giving them the tools to do good would most definitely benefit us all as a community.

I have resided in Hallandale Beach for over 17 years.

Polett Villalta

The View from a DIG Intern

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Tiffany Blackmon

Intern Tiffany Blackmon

As a law student interning with DIG, I spoke with a client recently and I was frustrated to learn that there are attorneys who disregard their duty to communicate with clients who are deaf. When someone is already in a difficult situation, it’s hard to believe that a lawyer would make the situation even worse, by refusing to provide an interpreter for a family member that needed one. Although I realize that some lawyers would have a difficult time paying for interpreters, most lawyers should be able to afford to pay for an interpreter for the clients that need them.
It is a basic tenet of professional responsibility that Lawyers have an ethical duty to communicate with their clients, and most lawyers try to fulfill that duty. There are unique challenges when trying to communicate effectively with a client is deaf. However, it’s still that lawyer’s responsibility to handle those challenges.
If a lawyer refuses to provide a qualified interpreter, it forces the deaf client to make a difficult choice. If he or she files a complaint against the attorney, to require them to provide an interpreter, the attorney may no longer be pleasant to work with. If you want to work with them despite their refusal, and do not file a complaint, the client is left paying for the interpreter yourself. This is a situation that seems very unfair because the client is paying more money for the same service that hearing clients are receiving.
When you’re calling a lawyer, it’s usually because you need help with a legal issue you’re having. You’re likely already in a difficult place in your life, and in need of legal advice or assistance. For an attorney to be able to help you, you need to be able to communicate with them, so they can get all the information they need to help you, and so you can understand the process, and ask any questions you have. I know that most lawyers are willing to fulfill their duty to communicate, and will provide a qualified interpreter when one is needed. For the attorneys who are unwilling, I hope that they become better educated on their duty to communicate with all clients, including those who are deaf. In South Florida, there are many sign language interpreters who are available to assist, and with the technology that exists now, which allows you to communicate with an individual who is deaf through a sign language interpreter via the video relay phone service, or in person through video relay interpreting with a webcam on your workstation, there is no reason for any deaf person to not have the equal opportunity to effectively communicate with their attorney.

Accessible Equipment in Miami-Dade County Parks

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Eliminating barriers and promoting inclusion at Miami-Dade County Parks
By: Rachel Goldstein

As a fellow for the University of Miami Mailman Center for Child Development’s 2013-2014 Emerging Transformational Leadership Program (“ETLP”), I am working with other professionals in the Disability Rights Community to transform systems of care for individuals with disabilities. Our goal this year is to promote the integration and inclusion of persons with disabilities in Miami-Dade County parks by ensuring the parks, playgrounds, and recreational programs and services offered are accessible and inclusive.

Adults with disabilities often do not have access to health promotion services and physical fitness activities due to lack of access to fitness facilities, inaccessible exercise equipment, and lack of adapted sports programs. Furthermore, children with disabilities are often excluded from playing at playgrounds due to inaccessible paths and play equipment. While we already know that getting outdoors makes people healthier and happier, we want to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to the same opportunities and are able to participate in leisure and recreational activities at Miami-Dade County Parks.

Many of the parks in Miami-Dade County do not have accessible pathways for individuals with mobility disabilities to travel through the parks. Furthermore, almost all of the parks do not have accessible physical fitness or playground equipment. Playgrounds that are accessible for children with and without disabilities should be implemented in our local parks. Also, accessible exercise equipment should be available at our parks, such as equipment that would allow wheelchair users to remain seated in during their workouts. By ensuring that there are accessible paths throughout our parks, accessible exercise equipment, accessible playgrounds, and inclusive programs and services, Miami-Dade County can promote the health, wellness, and integration of people with disabilities. I am eager to help develop and implement this project so that can be replicated in parks throughout South Florida.