Restaurant Fires Manager for Turning Away Veteran & Service Dog

“I expected by this day and age that everybody knows what service dogs are and should be more accepting of veterans who have to have a service dog,” Garrett said.

 

 

Last Sunday, veteran Garrett Loughran went out to a Memorial Day weekend lunch with his mother and his service dog, Hershey.  However, they were rudely declined seating because the manager refused to allow Hershey inside.  The restaurant responded quickly by apologizing, firing the manager, and donating $2,000 to Pets for Vets.

Garrett has served four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and understandably has post-traumatic stress disorder.  Hershey, a five-year-old Labradoodle, helps tremendously with his symptoms.  Readjusting to civilian life is not an easy transition, and being part of a crowd is stressful for Garrett.

He is legally allowed to bring Hershey, a certified service dog, with him wherever he goes.  But unfortunately, not all businesses acknowledge the law.

When Garrett’s mom took him out for lunch on the weekend meant to memorialize all the soldiers who did not return home, they were shocked to be turned away by the manager of Houlihan’s restaurant in Algonquin, Illinois.

“He had his red cape on that said he was a ‘service dog,’” mom Laura Wills told WGN TV. “We have the papers with us but she just said ‘Well, we don’t allow dogs in the restaurant. What type of service does he provide?’ And my son said ‘You’re not allowed to ask that.’”

 

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Technically, the manager had every right to ask what kind of tasks the dog has been trained to perform, but should not have turned them away.  The family left, dismayed by their treatment.

“I expected that by this day and age that everybody knows what service dogs are and they should be more accepting of veterans like me who have to have a service dog to acclimate themselves to this new world again,” Garrett said.

They complained to upper management, and a senior manager immediately responded.  They amply apologized in a letter.

“There is no apology that is sufficient in this circumstance. This is inexcusable. I will ensure this is addressed and that no other person has to endure what you and your son did today.”

Later, an official statement was released:

To be perfectly clear:  Houlihan’s supports and appreciates all veterans and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for this country.  We have and will always allow service dogs in our restaurants.

 

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The manager of the Algonquin branch of Houlihan’s was fired (which may have been an overreaction when only admonishment was really necessary for such a situation), and $2,000 was donated to Pets for Vets, the reported cost of training a service dog for a veteran.  As touched as they were by the offer, Pets for Vets feels the money should actually go to a different foundation:

Pets for Vets would have been honored to have worked with the veteran who was mentioned in the news report on WGN TV late yesterday. However, Pets for Vets provides trained companion animals or emotional support animals to our veterans, not service dogs.

While we appreciate Houlihan’s offer to donate $2,000 to Pets for Vets, we believe those funds should go to Paw Pals Assistance Dogs, the organization that appears to have trained the service dog in the report, so they are able to provide a assistance dog to another veteran in need.

We thank everyone for their support and their continued compassion for our veterans who suffer from PTSD.

Either way, Garrett and his family are truly touched by the outreach they have received, and feel that the amount of awareness raised by this incident is priceless.

 

 

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20 thoughts on “Restaurant Fires Manager for Turning Away Veteran & Service Dog

  1. I don’t think firing the manager was overkill. I guess it depends on how rude and un sympathetic she was to the veteran and his mother. If I were a member of upper management, I would demand that the manager apologize in person. Then I would fire her. While being asked what the dog is for might be offensive to the veteran, a good response would be “Well ma’am, I served four tours of duty over in Iraq and Afghanistan. I suffer from what people called PTSD. Having my service dog with me really helps me when I feel uncomfortable in social situations. It also prevents me from wanting to take a nice person like yourself and shooting them in the face.”

    1. No one is allowed to ask a person what kind of disability they have. Only two questions 1. If it is a service dog and what kind of service does it perform. The dog does not need to be certified, professionally trained or wearing any type of vest or carrying ID.

      1. Actually, to be a service dog it needs at least 2 years of professional training, certification and they generally do wear a vast that proclaims their are a service dog.
        What you described is a therapy dog, in which case certificates, training, and vests are not mandatory.

      2. Actually, to be a service dog it needs at least 2 years of professional training, certification and they generally do wear a vast that proclaims their are a service dog.
        What you described is a therapy dog, in which case certificates, training, and vests are not mandatory.

  2. This man has a therapy dog; NOT a service dog. They are very different things in terms of training and legal protections.

    Therapy dogs help people with behavioral health issues, anxiety and PTSD issues feel more secure in public. They are often the conduit between the owner and strangers. The training is really no different than any good pet would receive. Therapy dogs do NOT have the legal right to go everywhere the owner goes. Newbie dog trainers from Acme training school LOVE to say they specialize in training therapy dogs but the training is really that of a good pet.

    Service dogs receive approx. 2 years of rigorous training and socialization before they are matched with disabled people. Their training is to provide services the owner can’t do on their own such as guide them through traffic, retrieve items the owner has dropped, perform specific actions to alert the owner when their blood sugar is dangerously high or low and so on. They are trained NOT to interact with the public or strangers as their entire focus is needed on the owner when working. When strangers want to coo about how much the “service” dog is like their pet; it stresses out service dogs and can bring them to the point of vomiting it gets so bad. They can’t focus on their job with strangers all over them. Service dogs have the legal right to go almost everywhere with their owner as long as they are well behaved and the owner cleans up after them.

    There is so much fraud with therapy dogs, service dogs and pets it’s absurd. Often all you need to get catered to is a $5 internet “service animal” patch. Lawyers have a very lucrative specialty to get pets certified as service dogs to secure their place in apartments and condos that otherwise wouldn’t allow them.

    I do a lot of animal shelter volunteer work. If I had a dime for every time I heard people say they wanted a puppy and will just get a doctor’s note so they can keep the dog in their apartment, the shelter wouldn’t need donations from anyone but me.

    I am in favor of changing the laws to make service and therapy dogs certified with testing and legal identification. As it stands I don’t blame anyone who wants to protect their pet since they can do so with a $5 patch.

    1. I agree with most of your comments except the very first. You seem to conclude that the dog cannot be a service animal because the handler only suffers from PTSD. I refer you to CFR Section 36.104 and the definition of Service Animal.
      Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. . . . The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.
      PTSD is clearly a psychiatric or neurological disability. It is not a “behavioral health issue.”
      I especially want to THANK YOU for your excellent description of the lengthy and intense training involved with these exceptional animals–and particularly your comment about how disruptive and stressful it is to the service animal when strangers attempt to attract its attention!

    2. Mr. TedA,
      Thank you for your excellent comment about the intense training it takes to make a dog a service animal. Special thanks for mentioning how inappropriate it is for someone to attempt to get a service animal’s attention. It only makes the dog’s work harder when it has to IGNORE people, no matter how well-meaning they may be.
      I disagree with your initial comment that PTSD is a “behavioral health issue,” however. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which implements the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines as Service Animal as follows (CFR 36.104)
      Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.
      PTSD is clearly a psychiatric or neurological disability and is therefore protected under the ADA. PTSD in veterans is often associated with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) which are severe physical impacts to the brain.

    3. So much wrong information here.

      First, a Therapy Dog is a dog that is trained to go visit with OTHER people. Those dogs you see visiting with the elderly at a nursing home or with people at hospitals – those are Therapy Dogs. To their handlers, they are pets, but they make up part of a Therapy Dog Team that visits with other people.

      What you’re talking about is an Emotional Support Animal, or ESA. Those are pets / companions that are prescribed or recommended by a medical professional as part of a person’s treatment. For example, if you suffer from depression, your doctor might recommend a dog as part of your treatment. They have NO public access. They have NO special training. They are pets. However, under housing rules (the Fair Housing Act and HUD), they can be kept in no-pets housing.

      A Service Dog is a dog that is individually trained to do work or tasks for a person with a disability. Disability meaning they have a condition that severely limits one or more major life tasks, NOT just a diagnosis of something. What makes a Service Dog is that the dog is trained to do specific things that help a person with their disability. Providing comfort or emotional support are NOT considered tasks, so if that’s all the dog does, it is NOT a Service Dog.

      Service Dogs in the US require NO professional training, meaning they don’t have to come from a training program, but they MUST be trained to do tasks and in public access (ie, solid obedience regardless of the situation). Some are trained to ADI (Assistance Dogs International) standards but they don’t have to be. There’s no certifying body, there’s no requirement for a dog to come from a program, there’s no specific length of training the dog requires, there’s no specific breeds they need to be, and there’s no specific form of vest, leash, harness, ID or anything else they need.

      Since the dog in the article is described as “certified”, it could be a program dog (a dog from a training organization that provides dogs to veterans) OR it could be a “fake” Service Dog, as many people purchase “accreditation” (certificates, ID cards, etc.) online to pass their pet off as a Service Dog. Read SD handlers know there’s no such thing, nor can businesses ask for it, AND they know that the restaurant manager was within her rights to ask if the dog is a Service Dog AND what tasks it is trained to do. That’s specifically what the ADA says businesses are allowed to ask. The fact that she was fired over that is ridiculous.

      Oh, and just because someone has an invisible disability, like anxiety or PTSD, does NOT mean the dog can’t / isn’t a Service Dog. Psychiatric Service Dogs do many tasks for their handlers. For people suffering from PTSD, tasks can include leading them from a room when they become disoriented, grounding them or interrupting behavior if they have a flashback, turning on the lights if they have a nightmare at night, standing behind them to create a barrier between them and other people, fetching medication, and performing deep pressure therapy.

  3. I agree it was wrong to turn a vet and his service dog away and deny them service, i am a vet but firing the manager will not solve the problem. Public places have to train their managers and servers on proper handleing of these type of situiations, i feel for the vet and the mananger who now is out of a job for poor training from their employer. Donations will not make things right.

  4. There is no such thing as a certified service dog. Neither service dogs, nor therapy dog which is what he would have for PTSD, currently have an certification process.

    I’d love to see certification testing and national IDs for real service dogs.

  5. It depends on the manager’s attitude. It sounded like she was kind of rude with him. There is no excuse for rudeness especially from a manager. In any event, he should not have been turned down. I guess that manager learned her lesson the hard way. I hope upper management makes sure this will not happen again.

  6. I might get flamed for this, but I don’t believe service dogs should be allowed in restaurants. The primary reasons animals are banned to begin with are because they can’t be trusted to behave and because it’s unsanitary. While service animals may be well-behaved, they are just as unsanitary as non-service animals. Plus there may be people who are allergic.

    1. This is where authentic “service animals” are trained not to stand up and shake off all their dander and shedding hair until they are temporarily “released” to do so once they’re OUTSIDE.

    2. Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.

      Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.

      1. Very well said!
        From CFR 36.302 (c):
        (7) Access to areas of a public accommodation. Individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a place of public accommodation where members of the public, program participants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go.

        As to Ms. KannaChan’s comment: please remember, the issue is really about the rights of a disabled person. It is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act to treat a disabled person differently than a non-disabled person.

        1. Allergies are a disability. Why do you think schools and workplaces are forced to accommodate people with allergies to peanut butter and perfume? Why are some disabled people being catered to but not others?

          1. I’m afraid I don’t understand your comment. Which disabled people “are” being catered to and who “are not”?

    3. You know, in most of Europe, people can take their pet dogs into any restaurant. I don’t recall ever seeing any misbehave and they are certainly less unsanitary than human customers.

      1. But you fail to mention that in most of Europe, for example in Germany, you’re required to train your dog and you have to pay an annual dog tax just for having one. Less bad dog owners, more trained dogs = better behavior in public.

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