In Bradenton, Florida, a woman named Elisha Griggs walked into a McDonald’s with her unmarked service dog, and a suspicious employee told her the pup wasn’t allowed in the restaurant.
“They told me, ‘No pets.’ I said, ‘She’s not a pet. She’s a service dog.’ They asked me if I had paperwork for her. I said, ‘Yes,’” Griggs explained to WFLA News.
You see, the pup is a small black Pomeranian named Onyx, which Griggs will frequently hold or tow in a carrier. But while the petite pup doesn’t look how most people picture a “service dog”–a bigger dog with a harness or vest, usually indicating that it has a job to do–service dogs actually come in many different shapes and sizes. That’s because they can serve many different purposes.
When Griggs was questioned, she was able to provide paperwork from her doctor, which she kept in her car.
“They told me that the paperwork basically wasn’t good enough and they wanted to know what my disability was,” she said in the news story.
Griggs proceeded to call the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, and the deputy reaffirmed that the restaurant did, in fact, have to serve her.
“I did go back and I got a drink just to kind of to prove a point,” she said to WFLA.
A representative for the burger chain said that the whole incident was a misunderstanding, since Onyx had nothing on her to identify her as a service dog. Griggs received a phone call from McDonald’s corporate, but she’s still looking for a heartfelt apology from the employee who confronted her.
“Honestly, I would like a real apology from her. I kind of felt like that’s kind of owed to me,” she said in the story.
Laws Regarding Service Animals
While Grigg’s disability is not specified in the story, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.”
It goes on to explain that emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals are not considered service animals, as “they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task. However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places.”
The ADA states that store and restaurant employees can ask whether a dog is a service animal and what tasks it is trained to perform. However they cannot request documentation, ask about the person’s disability, or ask to see the dog demonstrate its trained “task.” What’s more, service animals are not legally required to be identified as such by wearing marked harnesses, vests, or collars.
On a state level, the Disability Rights of Florida says that comfort or support dogs are not considered service dogs. However, if dogs help their owners cope with PTSD, help prevent physical injury to those with psychiatric or neurological disabilities, or remind owners with mental illness to take medications, they are considered service animals.
Watch the news segment here:
Clearly, there are more tasks for service dogs besides guiding and providing physical support. Although we don’t know specifically how Onyx helps out her human, we do know that Griggs was able to show a doctor’s note when asked.
What do you think: does McDonald’s owe Elisha Griggs an apology?
(h/t: WFLA News)