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We were contacted tonight by two Veterans(USMC and USAF) who were highly upset by the way they were treated when they visited a Long John Silver’s tonight in Anniston, Alabama. The Veterans both have registered Service dogs, and both dogs were also wearing their vests.
This is Reagan, a service dog trained by New Horizons Service Dogs out of Orange City, Florida.
This is Ranger, a service dog in training by 1 Boy 4 Change:
According to the Veterans this is how the event unfolded:
“On Wednesday, September 04, 2013, I, Amanda Houser, and Holly Bolesky went to grab a bite to eat at my local Long John Silver’s (hereby referred to as LJS). We entered the establishment, waited in line behind another couple for approximately two or three minutes, and then approached the counter to order our dinner.
We ordered, and our receipt is stamped at 1900:00:29 pm, today’s date. We grabbed our drink cups and went to fill them, then sat down at a table to wait. After sitting at this table for approximately two to three minutes, the person we later learned was the Manager on Duty approached us and stated that we could not have dogs inside the restaurant.
I informed her that they were service dogs and that everything was okay. She said that “folks have allergies” and that she couldn’t allow dogs inside and that we would have to leave. At this point, another customer at the table next to us said that these were service dogs and that she couldn’t tell us to leave and that she had dog allergies, and they weren’t bothering her a bit. I stated that I could call the police and have them clear up the matter if she preferred.
At this point, the Manager walked away. (This is the same person who took our order.) About three to four minutes after this first encounter, another employee approached us and said that she had spoken to her manager and that he said we could not have dogs inside unless we were blind, and again told us that we would have to leave since we weren’t blind. We again told her that these were service dogs and that she could not make us leave. She stated that we “should just go on ahead and call the cops then”. At this point, I obliged.
My call to the Anniston Police Department was logged from Holly’s cell phone at 1911 pm. I informed the dispatcher of the situation and stated that they wanted me to call them, and I requested that APD send someone out. He said they would send an Officer. At 1922, I logged a call to Janet Carswell, CEO of 1 Boy 4 Change, Inc (the organization I’m certified through), and left a message for her to call me when she got the chance.
At roughly 1925, the officer with APD showed up and went to speak with the manager while Holly and I continued to eat. By approximately 1926, the Officer was speaking with me outside the front of the restaurant. At 1928 Janet returned my call, which Holly answered. The officer asked what happened, so I filled him in on the situation and asked that he take care of it.
He stated that he didn’t know the law as it pertained to this situation, and I called Holly outside as she has had her service dog longer than I had. Holly walks outside and we tell the story again. The first thing he asks is “What are your dogs for?” I state that they are for PTSD. He does not seem to understand why he was called, we inform him of the laws for the state of Alabama, with Janet on speakerphone.
She even goes as far as to tell him the title code for the state law that makes it a misdemeanor to interfere with a disabled person with a service dog in Alabama. The cops dismissed this information and kept talking. At this point, he calls the manager back out. She states that she is “scared of dogs” and Holly and I both inform her that this is not our problem, as they are service dogs, and protected by State and Federal law, in the same manner that a “walker, crutch, or wheelchair” would be covered. She states that she does not care and that she must “look out for other customers who have food allergies or are afraid of dogs”.
Again, we state that, were that the case, we would be happy to move to another table, but it is still not our problem. She also tried to say that “foreign people and other businesses have different rules about dogs and stuff”. I assured her I have been every place imaginable with my dog and have never been kicked out. We reiterated that this is federal ADA law and is the same in every state. She claims her manager told her to call 911, so she told the officer that she reported we did not have any weapons when she was on the phone with 911 dispatchers.
Holly and I were both incredulous. How did this even turn to a 911 type of call and involve weapons of any sort??? We got no answer. We asked her if a customer walked in with a prosthetic limb if they would be allowed to stay, she stated they would be. We then told her that Service Dogs are considered medical equipment. She rolled her eyes and stated that this is different.
After a few minutes of discussion with her getting more and more agitated by the second, she tells us that we should have informed the manager on duty that we were disabled and had service dogs with us. We repeated that she was the one that took our order! She claimed to have not seen the dogs…… after a few more minutes of back and forth, she stated that she “ain’t gonna stand out here and argue with them all night Officer, so can you just take care of this I’m going back inside for my other customers.”
The officer says that we are egging her on and blowing this out of proportion and that he doesn’t see what the problem is. He also stated we should keep paperwork with us to help alleviate problems in the future. We told him we had it with us right then and she never asked us for anything, and neither did the officers. We inform him that we will be filing charges tomorrow and will finish eating and be on our way. At this point, we return inside and finish our meal. I clean our table and throw away our trash and we leave.
We called the restaurant at 2047 pm to get the names of the manager and the other employee involved, but no one answered the phone. The Officer stated that he will file a report and that I can pick up a copy of it tomorrow, and that it will be in both mine and Holly’s names just in case. As soon as I get a copy of the report, I will update this incident report with the names of the employees and officers involved.
We are embarrassed by the way we were treated and humiliated that we had to stand in front of the restaurant on a very busy road with two patrol cars and two officers. I am horrified by the way we were spoken to and treated. This should never have happened, and I will work to ensure it never happens again.”
There seems to be a lack of knowledge lately on the part of Law Enforcement when it comes to Federal law concerning service animals.
According to the ADA:
Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. For example, in a hospital it would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, or examination rooms. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment.
- When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
- 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.
- A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.
- 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.
And according to Alabama law concerning the ADA:
Penalty for denial of or interference with enumerated rights.
Any person, firm or corporation, or the agent of any person, firm or corporation, who denies or interferes with admittance to or enjoyment of the public facilities enumerated in Sections 21-7-2 and 21-7-3 or otherwise interferes with the rights of a totally or partially blind or otherwise disabled person under Sections 21-7-2 through 21-7-4 shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
So this is the second incident in which an officer was called and did not know the law as it pertains to registered Service dogs, and Long John Silvers also needs to educate their employee’s that a Service dog is not just for “Blind People”!
The Long John Silver’s in question is at 631 Quintard Ave, Anniston AL 36201, the Facebook page for the national chain is located here:Long John Silvers
I think education is the biggest issue as this is the second incident where an Officer of the Law was unaware of the ADA. I am hoping these incidents start to decline as attention is brought to it and training is implemented. As more and more of our troops come back from over seas, and more wounded than in any other war, more service animals will be around. And it must be embarrassing for these Veterans when they are called out like this in front of people.
If you do contact LJS, please keep it polite and professional, that always leads to the best outcome.
We received contact from Long John Silver’s this morning via Email and they asked that we post this response:
We are making a donation to New Horizons Service Dogs of Orange City, Florida, to help support their important work. In addition, we invite the two veterans and their immediate families and service dogs back to Long John Silver’s to allow us to show our gratitude for their service.
Dr. Adel El-Sahn
Long John Silver’s, Anniston, Alabama”
The owner and the Veterans are making contact with each other as we speak, also the owner had this sign put up this morning.
We will update this story as we get more information.