From WUSA in Virginia comes the story of disabled Navy veteran Heather Diaz, who has been hassled by two restaurants in the past week because of her service dog, Brinkley.
Diaz is susceptible to migraine headaches and anxiety attacks, which Brinkley can detect and stave off. “He’s helped lower my blood pressure. My blood pressure was 140/84. And after 30 days with him, it dropped to 107/70,” she said.
In the first troubling incident of the week, Diaz was asked to leave the Genghis Grill in Chantilly, VA, because of her dog. As she recalled the conversation: “The manager’s name is Juan. He came up to me and said, ‘You need to leave. Dogs are not allowed. And I said, ‘He is a service dog.’ And he said, ‘I don’t care.’”
He still didn’t care, even when Diaz cited the laws governing service dogs to him, although another manager later told WUSA she was correct that it was against the law for the restaurant to refuse service. The Genghis Grill released a statement claiming that all of its employees are trained to avoid discrimination, which doesn’t explain why one particular manager treated Diaz the way he did.
The following day, Diaz and her two children arrived at an Olive Garden restaurant in Manassas and were repeatedly passed over for seating because of Brinkley. (Her husband is currently deployed in the Middle East.)
“The manager’s excuse was we have to go around asking all the people in the restaurant which you would be sitting near if they have dog allergies or a problem with a service dog,” said Diaz. She wound up going to a different Olive Garden, which seated her and her family immediately.
Once again, the restaurant insisted it was well-aware of the laws governing service dogs, and all of its teams are “trained on what to do when a guest is accompanied by a service animal.”
In fact, the Olive Garden admitted, “this guest has dined with us in our Manassas location with her service dog many times before.”
Service dogs wear livery, clearly identifying them as such. They’re used by civilians too, of course, but the large number of veterans returning from operations overseas probably means there will be more of them. Training on how to handle service dogs should be comprehensive, with respect for the laws of each state, and maybe a little benefit of the doubt for those who depend upon them.