(Memphis) There’s outrage across the country and the Mid-South after a dispute between a restaurant owner and an Iraq War veteran’s use of a service dog.
The dispute was over the law, and whether the dog, which was wearing a service dog vest, was allowed to stay with the veteran on the restaurant’s patio.
Melissa Maher is an Iraq War veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who takes her 2 year-old golden lab everywhere, “I know he’s in the present, in the here and now. The flashbacks and the nightmares and everything else, it helps me differentiate whats here and now.”
A couple of days ago, Maher took ‘Chauncey’ to Robilio’s Sidecar Grille in Bartlett.
Maher said she was verbally harassed by the owner, her rights were violated and she was embarrassed.
Owner Michael Robilio admits he questioned the presence of the dog, “I said, ‘do you have any form of registration to authorize that’s what the dog is.”
Maher did not and said, according to the American Disabilities Act, she didn’t have to show papers and Chauncey doesn’t have to wear a vest, “I said, ‘Sir you are violating my rights.”
The law reads: “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.”
At the time, Robilo didn’t know the law, “For me that’s hard to believe because anyone can offer up and say that’s a service dog.”
Maher and her husband stayed to prove a point after she felt humiliated, “To feel completely negated in my disability and my needs for a service animal.”
Robilio said that was not his intention, “I have a liability if the dog bites someone. Insurance liability.”
After dinner, Maher went home and blogged about it.
The post went viral.
Robilo said he and his employees have been threatened, “It’s not only jeopardized me and my business, but the reputation of the people who work here.”
Maher is equally surprised by the reaction, “That was never my intention. I told people on the blog to be polite.”
She told us her only intention in the post was to educate, “The law has been there long enough that business owners should know it.”