Cleveland Canine Gets Parking Permit

It is bad enough when friends and family of deceased people use that person's handicapped-parking permit.

But what really set Harvey McCleskey off is when a placard was issued to a dog in Cleveland.

"It was an embarrassment to me," McCleskey, who works in the registration section of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, told The Columbus Dispatch.

After learning about the dog, the bureau decided it was time to look at how handicapped-parking permits are issued and how the law is enforced.

More than 500,000 handicapped-parking placards are in circulation in Ohio.

To get a permit under the current system, a physician or a chiropractor must certify that a person is disabled, meaning he or she is unable to walk 200 feet without resting; cannot walk without the use of a cane, crutch, wheelchair, or other device; uses portable oxygen; has a cardiac condition; is blind; or has some other condition limiting ability to walk.

Placards must be renewed every 5 years; temporary placards are issued for 6 months or less.

The number of placards issued annually has grown steadily to more than 120,000 in 1997, from 62,000 in 1992, leading McCleskey to believe the system is being abused.

Bill Whatmore of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles said he has confiscated plenty of illegally used placards.

Many of Whatmore's investigations stem from tips from people who are angered by the illegal use of placards, especially by relatives or friends of a person who has died. Once Whatmore confirms that a placard holder is dead, he confiscates the card, he said. Charges are rarely filed.

Among the ideas being considered: requiring doctors to issue a prescription form to request a placard. Forging one of those forms is illegal.

The review is good news to Mary Lynn Westfall, a member of the Governor's Council on People with Disabilities.

"If people need them great," she said. "If not, let's clean it up."