On Saturday, an Upstate New York woman named Amy Kaplan posted a video to Youtube that showed an employee of a Rochester Starbucks denying her service because of her dog. According to Kaplan, that dog, a Malamute named Zero, is a service dog. Here’s her side of the story:
Normally, my service dog wears a vest when we are in businesses because it cuts down on questions. Today though, we were just going out for a very long walk. It was over 80 [degrees] outside and I did not plan on going in any businesses so no vest, and I did not want it to contribute to him overheating anyway. That is my legally protected right to make that choice. After a long walk in the heat, I decided to stop in to Starbucks to grab a frappuchino. This man told me to “GET OUT” and started harassing me and my service dog. He told me my dog was not a service dog and that he had to be licensed as a service dog (another ADA violation). He stuck his hands in my dog’s face and asked if he was male or female. I told him that was irrelevant, and placed my dog away from him as he was screaming at me. When I turned the camera on and he realized he was being filmed he took it down a notch. We left and I walked to my parents house and called the police, since denying access to a service dog team in NY is a civil rights violation. The officer who showed up informed me that Starbucks had already called them for a “customer trouble” call. Service dog handlers should not have to be subjected to this illegal and discriminatory behavior just because we require the use of a service dog for a disability. It is the business’ responsibility to know the law.
The idea that the above video shows the Starbucks employee “down a notch” is remarkable because he seems pretty obnoxious to me.
To their credit, Starbucks responded quickly, sending an email to Kaplan on Tuesday. The company’s regional vice president, Sumi Ghosh, wrote, “I want to personally apologize to you about what happened. It is not consistent with our standards and policies and your experience was clearly not what we would have wanted for you.” She plans to speak with Kaplan today.
We post frequently about the various problems folks with service dogs encounter out in the world. The idea is that the more we can educate the public about the rights of service dog owners, the better it will be for all involved. It’s nice to see Starbucks step up to the plate and quickly admit that its employee was in error. let’s hope he gets some serious retraining.