A group of military veterans were shocked when they were told by a Utah restaurant owner that they could not eat at his establishment because of their service dogs. Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protecting those with service dogs, this is not the first time the owner has refused service.
On Thursday, James Mann — the founder of 4 Paws 4 Patriots-Utah, a non-profit organization that provides service dogs to disabled veterans — and his three friends attempted to eat at Bombay Grill in Ogden, Utah when the manager approached them. According to Mann, the manager kicked them out because of their service dogs.
Despite being protected by the ADA, which ensures that businesses must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into "all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed," the manager, identified as Pual, allegedly told the group "if anyone tried to say that he had to serve us by law then he would just close his business."
"I've never been asked to leave anywhere because of my dog," Mann, who served in the Army for 11 years before becoming medically retired in 2013, told Today. "It was really embarrassing to be discriminated against this way."
"He just didn't care. He said it's his prerogative and he doesn't want dogs in his restaurant," Mann said.
According to Fox 13, this is not the first time guests with service dogs have been denied service at Bombay Grill. Missy Warwood, her husband and their 5-year-old son, Jefferson, had attempted to eat at the restaurant for her birthday two weeks earlier. Jefferson, who has Down syndrome and is non-verbal, had his service dog with him.
"We tried to educate him, and let him know that we have every right to be here. It's my son's service dog. He needs it," Warwood said. "And he said, 'No. It's my opinion, it's my restaurant. And I say, no dogs.'"
Now, Pual could face fines and be required to pay monetary damages for denying guests with service animals. But Mann, speaking to Today, said that he and his friends don't want the restaurant or the manager to get into trouble over the incident. Rather, they are hopeful sharing their story can raise more awareness to prevent discrimination.
"We suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression ... the dogs have helped us get out and feel confident going out and socializing. This experience was disheartening. We love our service dogs. They're like family. If we didn't have to suffer from these things, we'd choose that," Mann said. "It's embarrassing. It's hurtful when we're told we can't go somewhere when we know we are allowed to."
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