Starbucks Employees: Don’t Say “You’re Not Blind!” To A Disabled Veteran With A Service Dog

service_dawgPeople and dogs have been cooperating for thousands of years now. It’s our thing. In the modern world, it’s generally not okay to take your dog shopping, on a plane, or to Starbucks unless it’s a service dog trained to perform some kind of function other than being a fun pet. Not everyone knows this, which leads to some unfortunate situations…like the experience that a man had at a Houston Starbucks when he and his service dog were questioned at the door.

The man, an Iraq War veteran, had a leg amputated below the knee due to bone cancer. He has a service dog that helps him perform everyday tasks and physically supports him. The pair had been together for three and a half months, and were in town to speak about the awesomeness of the service dog training program.

A Starbucks employee tried to stop them at the door, though, insisting that dogs aren’t allowed inside. There’s one thing that businesses specifically aren’t allowed to do when someone with a service dog wants to enter their establishment, and that’s quiz the person about their disability and what the dog does.

Employees of a business can ask whether the dog is a service animal, and ask what tasks the dog performs. Updated guidelines for service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act spell this out very specifically.

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.

Saying “You’re not blind” and “Why can’t you [pick things up from the ground] yourself?” as the employee of this Houston Starbucks allegedly did? Not allowed.

In a statement to TV station KHOU, Starbucks assured the world that service dogs are welcome in its stores, and are not subject to interrogation.

Starbucks always welcomes service animals to our stores, and this customer’s experience is not consistent with the welcoming and friendly environment we strive to create for everyone. We have spoken with this customer to apologize for his experience, and we hope to have the opportunity to serve him again. We have also spoken with our store partner about this situation and used this as a coaching opportunity for the future.

Disabled veteran confronted by Starbucks employee about service dog [KHOU]

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  1. SingleMaltGeek says:

    I’m glad that at least Starbucks didn’t say that they would “retrain” this employee, because you can’t really train someone not to be a d*ck.

  2. schwartzster says:

    No need to trot out the disabled vet card. He didn’t lose his leg in the course of service (and it would only be *barely* relevant if he had) and his service doesn’t seem to have any impact on the story, so it shouldn’t be in the headline. The incident is just as important regardless of the individual’s former occupation.

    • DyinMyelin says:

      I dunno. A lot of people associate being in the military with higher moral qualities, making it less likely that he’d duct tape a traffic cone to a Labradoodle’s head just for the hell of it.

  3. CommonC3nts says:

    To be fair, people are abusing the term “service dog”.
    Emotional problems DOES NOT equal an ADA service dog.
    Being a vetern means nothing about being allowed to bring a dog into a store.

    Vision and hearing problems are legit reasons to have a dog as you are lacking in sense that are a necessity to navigate.
    Comfort dogs are not service dogs.

    People who can easily enter a store, see the menu, order, and leave the store all on their own then have no right to say they need to bring a dog into the store.

    Unless this guy literally rides the dog like a horse to get around then he does not need to take it everywhere with him.

    • C0Y0TY says:

      That’s not being fair. The dog’s not just for emotional support. As stated in the article, she picks up items for her client because he can’t easily bend down with a prosthetic leg.

    • CharlesWinthrop says:

      Posting this on behalf of a former Consumerist commenter who doesn’t have access right now, but I agree with the sentiment…

      He’s missing a fucking leg, you asshat. Let the man who served our country have a goddamned dog.