Man Files Complaint Against Coffee Shop Over Therapy Dog

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6.16.15 - anxiety

An incident that occurred at a coffee shop in Aspen, Colorado recently has prompted a man to make a complaint to the Department of Justice.  Ivan Lustig suffers from acute anxiety syndrome, and has a therapy dog he goes out into public with.  Lustig feels his rights have been violated, but city officials are saying that Ink Coffee handled the situation correctly.

“I have acute anxiety syndrome, and I have panic attacks, and he proves to be a buffer between me and my anxiety,” said Lustig.  “He provides a calming effect.”

Lustig and his dog, Kobi have been regulars at the coffee shop for years now.  Ink Coffee hasn’t given Lustig any issues having his therapy dog with him up to now.  However, when he refused to remove Kobi from a couch in the lounge area, a customer called the police.

“A customer came into the business and said, ‘Your dog cannot be on the couch,’” Lustig said.  “I asked him, ‘Are you a police officer?’ and he said, “No.’  I told him to mind his own business.”

The very next day, Lustig and Kobi were informed that they will no longer be welcome in the coffee shop.  The owners claim that this isn’t the first incident involving Lustig and Kobi.

“The cops had to show up, and that wasn’t the first time a customer complained about this,” said Keith Herbert, president and CEO of Denver-based Ink Coffee.  “We asked him 10 times not do that.  You can’t allow the dog on the couch.”

Rachel Burmeister is an environmental-health specialist for the city of Aspen.  Burmeister said Ink Coffee took the correct steps in this situation.

“The restaurant always has the ability to ask a patron to leave if the service dog is not acting in an appropriate way,” she said.  “Getting on couches, getting out of control, are legitimate reasons to move the dog from the premises.  In Ivan’s situation, they asked him to move his dog and he refused, and the police got involved.”

Lustig says that he didn’t want to be a burden on the cafe.  Lustig really does take Kobi everywhere with him, and is very selective in his choices of establishments he will go to.

“I don’t want to drag him into a steakhouse, although legally I’m entitled to,” he said.

He said the problem only came up due to a customer’s overreaction on the day in question.

“Kobi was on the ground and then jumped on the couch, and the customer started down the road with this drama,” he said.

Lustig has gone and filed a formal complaint against Ink Coffee.  He says he doesn’t want others with service or therapy dogs to have to encounter the same treatment he did.

“I don’t want them doing this to anybody else,” Lustig said.  “That’s my motivation.”

8 thoughts on “Man Files Complaint Against Coffee Shop Over Therapy Dog”

  1. This is beyond ridiculous. He doesn’t have a service dog, so it doesn’t belong in public places, Anxiety isn’t a legitimate reason to have a service dog, period.

    • As a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in service dogs, I can assure you that anxiety IS a very valid reason to have a service dog. However, it has to be a severe form of anxiety, such as a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, Social Phobia, etc. So, anxiety is actually quite a real reason to have a service dog. However, there is some question as to whether this was a service dog or therapy dog and if it was a service dog it certainly was not handled properly since no real service dog would be allowed to sit on a sofa in a cafe.

  2. A therapy dog is not a service dog. A therapy dog does not have the same rights as a service dog. If this is truly a registered therapy dog, then it cannot legally be allowed in the coffee shop. (I think all dogs should be allowed, but according to the current legal system, dogs aren’t allowed). If the dog is a REAL service dog (not a fake one) then, according to the law, it MUST be allowed in.

    However, anyone with a REAL service dog would never have their dog on the sofa. That’s against what service dogs are taught. The dog is supposed to be unobtrusive. As someone who professionally trains service dogs, it sounds like this is not a real one.

    Definitions: A Therapy Dog is one that works with an agency, such as the Delta Society, to go into hospitals, schools, etc, to provide animal assisted therapy for groups of people. It is NOT allowed into restaurants, etc. A Service Dog serves only one person who is legally disabled because they have some illness or injury that is pervasive and prevents them from performing their activities of daily living. The service dog helps the person by performing specific tasks to aid the person. It must be trained and it must be unobtrusive and the person must have a legal illness, as determined by a doctor or mental health professional.

    It’s very possible that this dog is a real service dog, in which case I still say shame on that man for having his service dog on the sofa. It is not good service dog manners. And service dogs are allowed everywhere, but if the dog is disruptive then legally the restaurant has the right to ask you to leave. So he has no legal standing.

    So either this dog is a fake or a real therapy dog, in which case neither are allowed inside at all, or it’s a real service dog in which case it is poorly trained and handled and the cafe had the right to ask him to leave. Shame on the man for trying to violate the system. It’s people like him that make life difficult for people with REAL disabilities! I have a real and legal service dog and I would never have her on the couch at a cafe. I bring a blanket and she lays at my feet, always.

    Shame on this man. He makes life difficult for people that are REALLY disabled. and that have REAL SERVICE dogs.

  3. I love dogs too, but some people like bugs of all things. I certainly wouldn’t want people who like bugs to bring them with them and let them on the couch!!! Some people do not like dogs and don’t want to be around them. Some people are afraid of them.

  4. I love how people who don’t have any need or experience with a service dog have such strong opinions…I do know the rules of a service dog and do have a PTSD service dog. I find it fascinating that instead of perhaps educating people such as Lustig, we condemn…that surely will he
    help the situation…or not.

    • I welcome dogs in our bar. However, they can not be on the bar or on a chair. They are on a leash and under control at all times. If the dog can not tolerate quietly sitting or laying by his owner, the owner is asked to leave. Never had a problem. I find it hard to believe this is a trained therapy dog or even service dog. No dog is allowed on furniture, they are not a pet but a working dog. People like this gentleman make it hard for real working dogs to get into establishments.


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