Family Upset After Dog Removed From Eatery
by Jeff Rusack, Reporter
August 23, 2013 8:13 PM
One Sioux Falls' family is crying foul after they say they were discriminated against for having an emotional support dog at a fast food restaurant, Thursday.
Mocha may have brown fur but she seems to be in a grey area.
Thursday afternoon when Alan Steele and his mother Edwina decided to dine in at a Sioux Falls Taco Bell, they were told to do something that surprised them.
“We were asked if we were going to eat in. I said, ‘yes, we are.’ And he goes, ‘I'm sorry. I can't allow you to do that,’” said Alan Steele.
The Americans with Disabilities Act allows any service animal into any just about any business.
“On the back it says that she is a part of the American Disabled Act of 1990,” pointed out Steele.
Mocha is titled as an emotional support dog. Mocha's owner, Edwina Steele suffers from depression and anxiety and can't take prescriptions due to a heart condition, as they tried to explain to the Taco Bell staff.
“She is a service animal, emotional support. And he goes, ‘that doesn't matter,’” added Steele.
“Just because a dog has a vest on doesn't mean the dog is protected,” said Steve Slavik, the CEO of Big Paws Canine, a company that trains dogs for Veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“What a service dog is and how it is defined, is a dog that is trained to perform work or perform a task for an individual with a disability,” quoted Slavik from the American with Disabilities Act.
And the Steele’s may be out of luck when trying to bring Mocha with them to businesses with pet policies.
“Dogs that wouldn't be protected are emotional support dogs and companion dogs. They are still considered pets and they are not defined in the protection of the ADA,” added Slavik.
But, asking someone about their dog, when it comes to determining if they are indeed a service animal, can be tricky.
Businesses are only allowed to ask two questions when it comes to service dogs.
Is the service animal required? And what work has the dog been trained to perform?
Businesses cannot ask what the owners disability is or for the owner to provide documentation.
“If the dog is barking or being destructive to merchandise or going to the restroom on the floor, those types of things, even if it's a full-fledged 1,000 of hours training service dog, a service dog can be denied access,” added Slavik.
The Steeles say there was no indication of any misbehavior at the Taco Bell, Thursday and they still hope for an apology from the restaurant.
“I would like for people to ask and understand before they criticize or discriminate against her,” added Steele.
There's no doubt Mocha is a lovable pup. But, service dog experts say an emotional support dog has no protection when it comes to the Americans with Disabilities Act.