Dillard’s ejected disabled Army Staff Sergeant J. Alex Gozalez and his service dog Mason for violating the store’s no animals policy. The store manager did not believe that Gonzalez is disabled because he is neither blind nor deaf. Gonzalez uses Mason—who wore a vest reading: “SERVICE DOG – DO NOT PET”—to help keep his balance.
When Gonzalez explained that he is disabled and was training Mason to help him, the manager responded that dogs were not allowed in the store and that Gonzalez would be escorted out, Gonzalez said.
The manager was “very firm, and I felt embarrassed and ashamed,” Gonzalez said. “I felt like I was disrespected.”
Dillard’s officials say Gonzalez never identified himself as disabled and only indicated that he was training the dog.
“On a daily basis Dillard’s welcomes customers with service dogs into many of its stores across the country,” Johnson said.
“If a person wishes to seek to train a dog in a Dillard’s department store, the respective store manager needs to be contacted so that the best time can be established for both parties.”
After leaving the store, Gonzalez contacted Hurst police. Officers talked with Gonzalez and the manager and determined that the dispute was a civil matter. Police say there was a report of the dog causing a disturbance in the store, which gives the business owner a right to ask the animal to leave.
However, if a business owner is suspected of discriminating against a disabled person with a service animal, the business owner can be ticketed for misdemeanor discrimination, police said.
A Dillard’s District Manager called Gonzalez the next day to profusely apologize for his store’s insensitive disregard for the Americans With Disabilities Act. Gonzalez was unmoved, and claims that he will never shop at Dillard’s again: “I felt embarrassed, low. I’m over here accepting my disability in public, and you are going to mock and harass me?”
Store boots disabled vet and his service dog [Star-Tribune]
(Photo: D.J. Peters/Star-Tribune)