Wawa Pays $12,500 To Kicked-Out Customer With Service Dog

Many people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey speak highly of the Wawa chain of convenience stores. Which is why it was a bit of surprise to folks in the area when a man was kicked out of a store earlier this summer because he brought his service dog into the building. Now the chain has not only agreed to fork over a bit of cash to the customer, but to also make sure its employees don’t repeat the mistake.

The incident occurred on June 13, when the man attempted to buy a sandwich at a Wawa in Cumberland County, NJ, only to be told by the store manager that he would not be served unless he took the dog outside.

The man, whose service dog is trained to assist him in case of a seizure, says he attempted to show the manager the animal’s documentation and let her know that the store is required to allow service animals, but the manager refused to listen.

So now he’s getting $12,500 as a settlement from the store. But more importantly, Wawa has agreed to post signs in all its stores — at least the ones in New Jersey — reminding them that service dogs are allowed by law.

While Wawa did not comment on the settlement, it had previously stated that “Because we are a food establishment, we have to comply with strict Board of Health regulations which do not permit pets in our stores, but of course qualified service animals are permitted and welcome.”

N.J. man kicked out of Wawa for bringing in service dog to get $12,500 [NJ.com]

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  1. Marlin says:

    Problem is the way the law is written you are not even supposed to ask for proof. So people can bring in pets and legally you can’t stop them.
    So yes a few idiots will ruin it for those that do have service animals and do have true need.

    • Marlin says:

      FYI…

      http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm

      “Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.”

      • fortymegafonzies says:

        At least some of these registries are for-profit companies. I’m sure they don’t turn down many applicants. All you have to do is send $64.95 and “By clicking this box, you confirm that you have some type of disability based on the above information.” Sweet.

        http://www.nsarco.com/index.html

        • fortymegafonzies says:

          Dyslexia is on their list too, lol. I need my dog to spell for me.

        • shepd says:

          “A large number of our clients register their dogs as Certified Service Animals not just to accompany them into stores, restaurants, motels, or on airline flights (for no extra cost), but to successfully qualify for housing where pets aren’t allowed.”

          And this is why government regulation doesn’t work.

          • nodaybuttoday says:

            I’ve read a few stories before about people bringing their dogs on cruise ships and claiming they were guide dogs. Even though the dogs misbehaved and barked all the time, it was so obvious they weren’t trained.

            • wizlostpup says:

              Just for your information if a true service dog misbehaves you are legally able to ask them to leave the premises they ADA states that you must have control over your service animal at all times so therefore if you see a misbehaving so-called service dog let the person know so we can help eliminate the people that are you legally claim and they have a service dog and you can get the authorities involved because to the best of my knowledge it is a felony to say your dog is a service dog and and not meet the requirements under the ADA code

          • woot says:

            Well, actually, it’s where government regulation WOULD work if there was more of it. A government issued ID similar to a drivers license would be really helpful to many disabled people who cannot rely that they won’t run into problems like this at present.

            Right now there is no documentation requirement. But if you feel like ordering up some from a random for-profit business on the web then you can certainly do that, or make your own.

            The system is totally open to abuse, which ultimately places unwarranted suspicion on people that really do NEED their service animals with them at all times.

            • silenthands says:

              Agreed. If there was regulation to dictate where and how you could get legit certification, akin to driver’s licenses, then places like that clown operation could and SHOULD be shut down.

          • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

            Yeah, and the private company is doing it so well.

            The exact opposite of what you said is the truth. If there were a standard codified into law, then abuses like this could be prevented.

            This is just further proof that private companies CAN and WILL do whatever the hell they want if they can get away with it, right, ethical, accepted, or no. See: banking.

        • regis-s says:

          Here in BC people claiming their pets are guide animals can be challenged. http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/guideanimal/ The animal has to be trained at a recognized institution in Canada or USA as well. A piece of paper from some mickey mouse internet outfit that’ll approve anything if you pay them isn’t going to fly.

          As for the original story, I don’t know what kind of operation Wawa is but how could somebody that’s a manager not know this? I’m not even American and I know it.

          • JPDVM2014 says:

            I used to work for Wawa, and for the most part it is a decent place. They really drill in that everyone should have great Customer Service, but they tend to use Customer Service skills as a major point in placing management. So, sometimes, a less than capable person ends up in a management position.

          • kbsparky says:

            Wawa is a convenience store, similar to 7-Eleven. It’s a regional chain (Mid-Atlantic), with HQ in the Philadelphia area.

      • GandyDancer says:

        Service animal details under ADA was changed, effective 15 March 2011. Only dogs can be service animals (with one exception) and by inference, only selected breeds are trained to be service animals. Included in the change a person claiming to have a service animal can be asked two questions:

        “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.”

        http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

        in addition, “emo” dogs are not service animals and not subject to protection under ADA. Anyone may claim to have a service animal for emotional support. However, the law does not recognize this and ADA offers no support for them. This also includes purse dogs.

        If you are around service animals often enough, it is quite easy to determine if an unknown dog really is a service animal. It then becomes a matter of questioning the alleged disabled individual as described above. I would not go so far as to confront the person, but instead, educate them that service dogs are now narrowly defined under the law.

        Those registry companies are complete BS. There is no legal support for them. There are scams and moneymakers. In fact, anyone with a “registered” service animal is perpetuating a lie.

        • wizlostpup says:

          I don’t agree with the second question that’s that they can ask because if you tell the person what the service dog does it reveals your disability therefore your medical information that is protected I do agree that a certain standard should be set for all service dogs

    • evilpete says:

      I know quite a few people who say their pets are service animals just to get around no pet laws.

      What is worse is that the majority of these fake service pets are not even well trained ( I’m talking about stealing food, barking, encircling others customers with their leash.

      • SirWired says:

        And business are allowed to eject disruptive animals, “service” designation or not.

        • frank64 says:

          Probably risk the same lawsuit though, and they may even settle if they are right legal costs being what they are.

      • pegasi says:

        I totally agree… there are plenty of agencies that administer “canine good citizen” tests and issue certificates for this particular test, which certify a dog’s training to a certain standard. To be a “service animal” it should have to have this certification.

        I’m sorry, a dog that can’t follow BASIC instructions for commands like sit, stay, down, and quiet – which aren’t even anything special – isn’t a service animal. Animals that can alert to seizures, panic attacks, diabetic episodes etc, are often HIGHLY obedience trained, because they have that “go-gear” that makes them VERY trainable, and they often NEED that training to make them so controlled in public, that they will sit and stay under any provocation – look at your average guide dog for example – they ignore balls, kids, treats, even bacon sat on the floor in front of them – they’re taught to ignore it all when on duty.

        • silenthands says:

          My hearing ear dog almost failed out of the program because he had a fondness for barking. Once we got him in-home and out of the kennel environment he was in, he calmed down enough that a little more obedience training to put a fine edge on his manners was enough for the company to come back and certify him as a full-fledged service dog (according to their company). I have had a lady and her “service dog” thrown out of a community college for failing the basic tenets of canine good-stewardship.

      • c_c says:

        Interesting social circle you have … I have a ton of friends w/ dogs and have never heard of anyone faking having a service animal.

    • necrosis says:

      Yeah I thought it was mandatory that the service animal (usually dogs) had to have its ‘paperwork’ on the harness or the owner at least carrying it with them.

      • benminer says:

        A common misconception. There is no requirement to carry papers for your service animal. A lot of people do, but it’s not required.

    • SirWired says:

      While you cannot ask for documentation, there ARE questions you can ask. The most prominent is: “What specific tasks is the animal trained to perform?” You also may ask for documentation from a doctor for “Emotional Support Animals.”

    • ReaperRob says:

      We actually ran into this issue where I work.. We had a customer with a dog on a leash and she claimed it was a service dog. That’s all we’re allowed to do, ask. We had another customer throwing an absolute fit because the mall had told her no pets were allowed. She started demanding numbers for our DM and the mall office. After a while we had to start ignoring her, because she kept complaining to every employee in the store.

      • pegasi says:

        I see people with these teensy foo-foo purse dogs – and I know that little bitty fluffy pomeranian or yorkie isn’t likely to be a service animal – sorry, the chances of it doing anything as a service animal are about as likely as a snowball in a hot place. Rare ones may be trained as a therapy aid dog to visit nursing homes etc, but not the majority toted around with no discipline!

        if you can’t bear to leave foo-foo home because it cries when you leave – hire a pet sitter whenever you go out, or heaven forbid – train your dog to tolerate you leaving it alone!

        • silenthands says:

          The organization where I got my hearing dog works primarily out of shelters. A large portion of the dogs they train are 15 lbs or less, and less than 5% are 50 lbs or larger. So yes, I could see a hearing dog being a “foo foo dog” but I do take exception at the idea that a dog carried in a purse or other type bag could adequately perform the tasks required of it. It depends on what those tasks are and how they are meant to alert. My dog only had to make physical contact to alert me of a sound – supposed to be a paw, so I guess a dog being carried on an arm could paw said arm to alert of sound or impending seizure. It does lessen the credibility though.

        • Kate Blue says:

          Actually there are a lot of small dogs that are service dogs. My sister has one whose entire purpose in life is to keep her from committing suicide because she lives in constant overwhelming pain. There are hearing dogs and dogs that calm autistic cases as well as other psychological service dogs.

    • Oh_No84 says:

      The words “service dog” mean nothing anymore.
      “service dogs” used to mean for handicapped, now it means for anything.

      Handicapped people like blind, deaf and even this guy who gets real seizures are what the service dog laws are written for.
      If you dont qualify for a handicapped parking then you CANNOT pretend your dog is a service dog. If you have some mental problem and you use a dog to “comfort” you then you DO NOT get the right to bring it around with you.

      The laws need to change to stop these evil people from taking advantage of disabled person laws.
      Because people are taking advantage, stores are not taking the words “service dog” seriously anymore unless you visually have a problem that they know would require one.
      When everyone is crying wolf how can a store worker know who seriously needs a dog???

      • sprybuzzard says:

        Wait, the people who have dogs that alert them to low blood sugar or seizures don’t likely qualify for handicap parking, but certainly their dog is a service dog to them. I’d hardly call these people evil.

        • Oh_No84 says:

          I would say use a meter for diabetes like everyone else.
          But the only factor to cart a dog around should be 100% physical.
          If you dont have a physical problem like blind, death, diabetes (if you cant use a meter for some strange reason), seizures, basically something tangible then you cant bring a dog with you.
          These comfort dog people are stupid and the problem is a psyciatrist will prescribe anything to anyone as long as they have paying customers.
          I would not even allow the new trend in autism to have comfort dogs. Parents cant use a dog as a crutch for their kid to where the kid is so attached they cant go anywhere without the dog. That is cruel.

          Until people stop crying wolf with their personal pets, this kind of question everyone approach will be everywhere.
          Remember allegies is a disability also, so unless your disability is worse than people with allergies then no dog for you.

      • wizlostpup says:

        I suffer from severe anxiety and that is what my service dog is there to help me with I do have physical limitations but my service dog primary training is to be there as a comfort to help me be and social environments and not have panic attacks or undue anxiety

  2. HSVhockey says:

    I love me some Wawa, but they are a distant second to Sheetz.

    • CalicoGal says:

      mmm shmiscuits…..Sheetz is an awesome restaurant

    • sprybuzzard says:

      I had a long discussion with friends about Sheetz vs Wawa. Still prefer sheetz due to the greater variety of hot food and drinks available.

  3. AngryK9 says:

    Then again, anyone can get pretty much any dog listed as a service dog. A former roommate of mine got her Pit Bull registered as a service dog by claiming he was a Bull Mastiff and stating that she has “anxiety problems” and that she has to keep him with her to “keep her from suffering anxiety attacks”. Nobody ever asked her for documentation, she simply paid the fee and got a registration.

  4. Mamudoon says:

    My Wawa is always so busy and understaffed that they don’t care what walks in the door.

  5. HammRadio says:

    You’re a helper monkey this isn’t helping

  6. catskyfire says:

    Keep in mind that the rules regarding animals are different for public accommodations and housing. Service animals are usually identified in some way (generally harnesses, or something that indicates that it is a service animal). In housing, comfort animals are pretty much anything, provided your doctor indicates you need it for some medical reason (such as dogs for anxiety or PTSD).

    • cspschofield says:

      That would make some sense, which is probably why the ADA law doesn’t take it into account. So food stores are stuck in between two laws, with no realistic way to obey both. I fully expect to read about a store getting closed by health inspectors because they allowed animals in when they are not allowed to challenge the word of the customer.

      The law is an ass.

      • catskyfire says:

        The food stores aren’t trapped between two laws. They only have to worry about the public accommodations law. They are not providing housing.

  7. Pete the Geek says:

    The argument that some people abuse service animal statutes and therefore it somehow justifies the actions of store staff to reject a person being assisted by an animal is misplaced. People with service animals must be allowed in places of public accomodation. If there are weaknesses in the laws and regulations that define service animals, those must be addressed with lawmakers. The current laws were clearly intended to impose a minimal paperwork burden on persons with disabilities and any changes should keep this in mind. Asking a disabled person to “show their papers” to prove that they are in fact disabled, and another set of papers to prove that their animal is a bonafide service animal seems unreasonable and an affront to the person’s dignity. Bringing a service animal into a store is NOT a “perk” and it should not be treated as such.

    • pegasi says:

      it should be simple to get “papers” to prove an animal is actually an assistance animal. You get a seeing eye dog, they give you the certification when you get it. You get a seizure dog, or for some reason, your household pet starts alerting after you develop seizures and you go to the appropriate local agency and have the dog’s ability verified, and you get a certification. You have a doctor certify that you have to have your dog because of ptsd… etc.

      The point is that some certifying entity, be it the animal shelter, a physician, a training agency, etc provides some creditable paperwork vouching for the animal’s training, ability, or necessity. Most, if not all, of these entities already exist, so it should be simple to have them be the ones to provide a stamp of approval, no renewal needed. Once an animal is certified for a particular owner, there should be no need to recertify, unless the animal bites someone.

      Like most things, the bad apples spoil things for everyone else. So, it will eventually end up that the laws will have to be changed to allow the validity of animals to be questioned and verified, because people insist they can’t leave foo-foo home when it’s just a pet.

      • silenthands says:

        The problem is, who oversees those certification agencies? How do we know they’re not like those mickey-mouse people upthread that sell “Certificates” for $64.95 without ever seeing you or your dog? That’s the problem that service dog advocates are wrestling with. This is a large country. How do we set up a countrywide certification service that can quickly and reasonably provide certificates for dogs that have passed various requirements (training, etc)? We have certificate services for other things, such as driver’s licenses and car registrations, and look at how complicated the infrastructure and crap is for that.

        I had a service dog for 11 years. The company that trained him is relatively well known, and they have their version of ID (a driver’s license sized piece of orange card with pictures of dog on one side and my pic on the other, our pertinent info on both sides) as well as a cape and matching leash that announce that he was a service dog, et cetera. That was a “certificate” in some ways, but it wasn’t a nationwide thing. I wish it was, though.

    • finbar says:

      The animal bans in restaurants are there for sanitation, etc. If individuals want to exercise the special privilege of being exempted from these rules why shouldn’t they be required to demonstrate that need is genuine and the animal is bonafide?

      it’s not fair to public at large to allow laws like this to be abused simply to avoid potentially affronting the dignity of people with qualified conditions and animals.

  8. Bender6829 says:

    Wow… I did not know that there was so much abuse of the service animal policy. I’m gad to see that the chain did the right thing, though the $12,500 seems like a settlement to me.

  9. Bog says:

    I have worked as a caregiver to a obviously disabled person, in a wheel chair with a service dog… that is obviously a service dog; and we still have had grief from some businesses. We had one store employee said no dogs, mo matter what, no exceptions, this employee was very aggressive and nasty about it… Yes we made a stink and took a stand, that time (I was ordered to do so by my person) and yes that store manager called the cops who called the business owner was called down to the store. The employee was fired on the spot. Store policy was actually clear about welcoming service animals. Go figure…

    • Oh_No84 says:

      I dont know about this. I would like to know more about the disability to know if the worker was right or wrong.
      They are in a wheelchair and I assume it is self propelled or they use their arms hands to move it, but are they blind or deaf?

      Now if there was a caregiver with the person, was the dog necessary to be protected under the ADA??

  10. scoosdad says:

    I don’t get who the signs are supposed to be for– for the employees, to notify them it’s the law and also Wawa’s policy? That should be done by employee training, not some sign that gets buried behind empty crates.

    If for the customers, that’s just inviting abuse by people who can simply claim their dogs are service animals. The people who have and need service dogs legitimately, know that they’re allowed. A sign isn’t going to make any difference in that case. That’s what the original case was all about– a customer who knew the law and was trying to convince a Wawa employee they were wrong about it.

    Sounds to me that the signs are more for PR purposes than anything else useful. “Look at us– we follow the law, hooray!”

    • MuleHeadJoe says:

      The only actual effect the signs will have is basically PR. Unless the company is really so deficient that they don’t clearly tell employees that service animals are allowed. You could just say it’s a simple “reminder” for some of their less intellectually-gifted employees.