We’ve posted many times about customers with service dog who were denied entry or service at restaurants and businesses. Here’s a case from Florida that seems to highlight the problems with how service dogs, and the rights of their owners, are regulated. Danielle Woodson and her friends were in a Pensacola restaurant, along with Danielle’s self-trained dog McLeod, who was lying under the table. Apparently, another customer complained about “dog smell” and asked for a refund. At this point, the manager asked Woodson and her friends to leave. They refused, saying that it was within their rights to stay. The police were called, and the responding officer argued that the restaurant had “the right to refuse service at any time.”
These situations always raise lots of questions, such as
1. What constitutes a service dog?
2. Who decides what is and isn’t a legal service dog?
3. What are the rights of the service dog owner? and
4. What are the rights of the business owner?
The video above quotes Ken Lyons, Executive director of Service Dogs of Florida:
“Service dogs are regulated by three different federal agencies; the Department of Justice handles public accommodation, which is what’s involved in this situation. Under the ADA public accommodations are not allowed to card service dog animals all they can ask is two specific questions, . . .”
So what are your thoughts on this case, which seems much less cut-and-dry than some of the previous examples we’ve posted? To be honest, it sounds to me like the other customer was angling for a free meal, and both the restaurant and the officer were wrong to force Woodson to leave.
gray areas involved in the laws governing service animals.