No matter how many stories are written about stores and restaurants wrongfully kicking out — or trying to kick out — customers with service dogs, the issue still persists.
The latest story comes courtesy of the below YouTube clip, which we’re told was shot at a Whataburger restaurant in Pensacola, FL.
In the clip, a woman with a service dog and her friend attempt to dissuade a police officer from kicking them out of the establishment because others at the restaurant complained about her dog, which remains quiet under the table for the entirety of the video.
The officer asks the woman for documentation that the dog is indeed a service dog, but she replies that she doesn’t need to carry any sort of documents as proof.
And she’s correct. Per the federal government’s own FAQ about service animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act:
The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government…
Some, but not all [service animals], are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. However, an individual who is going to a restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, such documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. 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.
The officer tries to make the distinction that the restaurant is not violating her rights by saying that she was served her food, but now that she’s done, she needs to leave.
The customers point out that they are still finishing their drinks and that there are people in the Whataburger who have been there much longer than they have.
Then the officer oddly talks about how during his years as a canine-handler for the police force, he was allowed to bring his dog with him. This is right before he threatens to arrest the woman’s dining companion for trespassing.
In the end, it appears that the customer gives up trying to talk sense to the police officer and leaves — but not before capturing the video (albeit in that vertical caught-on-iPhone style) that shows she was in the right the entire time.
It’s all a big mess that demonstrates how little this officer and this restaurant’s manager know about service animals or the ADA. We highly recommend that every restaurant, store and police department become very familiar with this FAQ, as it makes it very clear what business owners can and can not do when someone with a service animal comes in.