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Veteran, service dog turned away from restaurant; Manager fired

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ALGONQUIN, Ill. -- Memorial Day is a time to remember our nation’s veterans, those who have gone to war to help keep the country free.

But Sunday, a north suburban vet had an experience that shows not everyone remembers. And what happened to him at an Algonquin restaurant should serves a reminder to us all.

Garrett Loughran of Huntley has served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. And like a lot of veterans, Garrett uses a service dog to help with his PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hershey, a 5-year-old labradoodle, helps keep him calm in crowds and adjust to civilian life. He’s no ordinary canine. In fact, he’s specially trained for this. By law, he’s allowed to go where Garrett does— no questions asked.

But yesterday, Garrett’s mom wanted to take him to a pre-Memorial Day lunch at the Houlihan’s in nearby Algonquin.. And that’s when things got a little touchy. The veteran, his mom and his dog were turned away.

“He had his red cape on that said he was a ‘service dog,’” said Laura Wills, Garret’s mother. “We have the papers with us but she just said ‘Well, we don’t allow dogs in the restaurant. What type of service does he provide?' And my son said ‘You’re not allowed to ask that.'”

“I expected that by this day and age that everybody knows what service dogs are and they should be more accepting of veterans like me who have to have a service dog to acclimate themselves to this new world again,” Garrett said.

When the family complained about the treatment they received, the restaurant chain wasted no time in responding. They apologized profusely. And, in a letter to the family, a senior manager writes,

There is no apology that is sufficient in this circumstance. This is inexcusable. I will ensure this is addressed and that no other person has to endure what you and your son did today.

Then later today, an official corporate statement said,

To be perfectly clear:  Houlihan's supports and appreciates all veterans and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for this country.  We have and will always allow service dogs in our restaurants.

Houlihan’s says the manager involved in turning Laura, Garrett and Hershey away has been fired and it’s donating $2,000 dollars to the organization Pets for Vets. That’s the cost of training one service dog for a veteran who needs one.

Garrett says he considers that extremely generous and the amount of awareness raised by all this to be priceless.

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  • Loboviejo

    I am seeing way too many similar instance of deliberate or unintentional disrespect to vets… such as flag burning and such… yet, when I see these things “Yes, as I OIF vet I am offended”… but I dont get angry… I say “You’re welcome :O)” and I pray and remember my fallen brothers abd sisters who died protecting the such.

    In the US Army when a Soldiers messes up then as leaders we implement corrective training… what I am saying is the manager should not have been fired but should have had to undergo some type of corrective training. Now this person is out of a job and likely unable to pay bills… overkill by corporate HQ. So what was really accomplished here?

    • Made in the USA

      This veteran disrespected veterans his dog is an emotional companion not a trained service dog even the place he got it from said they gave him an emotional support animal way to be a sucker for yellow journalism. All he did was make it hard for the rest of us with his fake service dog

  • Pamela Hollar

    Memorial Day honors those who died in service to our country. Veteran’s Day honors our veterans. Regardless, it’s not acceptable for any business owner or manager (or any worker) to not be made aware of the service dog laws.

    • Wil Mette

      “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.”

      When asked what work or task has the dog been trained to perform the vet said the manager was not allowed to ask. The vet claims to have been carrying Registered Service Animal papers, but did not show them. Now a manager is out of a job so the company can save face and make people like you feel better.

      • Rain

        I work to bring awareness about service dogs and this makes things worse. The manager was right and should not have been fired. “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.” This protects the customers, the establishment but most of all people with service dogs! Anyone can buy a vest and there are no paper issued that are required although there are companies that will sell papers to anyone.

      • Sean

        Hey Wil, I agree and disagree with you.

        You are 100% correct that the manager had a legal right to ask what services the dog provided; as it’s one of the only two questions permitted to be asked under ADA law. It was incorrect for the veteran to refuse to answer that question.

        However, under the same statute in ADA law, no documentation can legally be requested, nor has to be produced by the handler, verifying the legitimacy of the designation of “service dog” or “training records.”

        That being said, the manager acted within the law, and refused service when one of the only two alloted questions was refused to be answered by the handler. As such, she should not have been fired.

    • dragonwych

      I note that the journalists have very carefully skirted the issue of whether this dog is a registered service dog or an emotional support animal; the legal difference is huge. Yes, there are service dogs trained for psychiatric services. There is nothing in any of these articles that indicate that this man’s dog is such an animal. If one has a registered service dog, one must carry the dog’s registration, and there is identification on its harness. Again, the verbiage and the photographs carefully avoid that information. Conclusion? That the dog is an ESA. That it had no business being in the restaurant. That the manager should not have lost her job (but should have had some retraining). That what we have here is nothing but bullying by an ignorant public. Well, WGN? Show us the proof that this is a service dog covered by the ADA. Because, if it were, you know you would have included photos of its harness and its ID tag, at the very least, in your story.

      • Don Finley

        You’re mostly right, but you’re mistaken about the papers. Here’s a clip from the ADA’s FAQ page.
        How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

        A: Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers.

      • Sean

        Under ADA law, NO documentation: registration: proof of training: vaccination records: is legally allowed to be requested/provided by handler. Under that same law, a service dog is not even required to have tags (aside from rabies and local ordnance tags) nor is it required to wear a vest emblazoned with “Service Dog” designation. You can, under ADA law, walk around with your service in a regular collar and leash. It is beneficial to have a vest, with the SERVICE DOG designation, although most store managers and the such, still are unable, for whatever reason, to make visual confirmation of it being a service dog.

  • Greg Albert

    It is so sad how some people treat those that have went to war to keep us safe.I do not think that the manager should not have fired him or her.A few weeks of work would make the person stop and think the next time they see a service dog.And it is learning lession for all that see this story on the news.And my hat is off to all the men and women that have gone to war.

  • LindaMC

    A company that had the guts to take the bull by the horns and admit a mistake and took the proper steps to correct it? Quite rare in this country today. Doing something good for our Vet, and thank you, you have earned respect. I will eat there and I’m sure more people will to. Thank you for your service Garrett and Hershey.

  • Craig Nispel

    I agree what happened was inapporpriate, but with all the news about people saying the animal is a trained service animal, with fake apparel on the animal , I agree the person should carry an service animal ID from a credited facility and or state.

  • Ed Laucks

    I wish I could have been the one to fire the manager. And, why are they hiding the managers name? Why should they protect them from their own stupidity. They insulted a vet and they deserved to be insulted right back!

    • JackR

      How did they insult the vet? The law allows for people to ask if it is a service animal (which is separate from a companion animal which many of these vet organizations actually provide and AREN’T allowed in restaurants) and what tasks the service animal performs. The manager was absolutely allowed to ask those questions, and when the vet refused to answer them, the manager can deny the animal entry.
      The problem here wasn’t a manager insulting a veteran. The problem was a vet that doesn’t know what the law says about his own animal, and then throwing a temper tantrum as a result. Then the problem was compounded by ‘journalists’ covering the story without verifying what the law says and furthering the narrative of the horrible manager and the maligned vet.

  • Lorraine Keshner

    I applaud your company for doing the right thing. It’s not often that a company stands up so quickly to do so. thank you again..

    • Don Finley

      But the restaurant did NOT do the right thing, Lorraine. They fired their manager for following proper guidelines set out in the Americans with Disabilities Act. How is that possibly the right thing? The ADA states “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.” This is exactly what the manager did, and for doing the right thing according to the law she got fired. Houlihans head office reacted so quickly that it’s pretty obvious that they never did any kind of investigation into the incident, it was just a knee-jerk reaction. Please read the ADA’s page on service dog laws to educate yourself.

    • Don Finley

      Yup, she learned a good lesson all right. Follow the proper procedures set out in the law and get fired for it anyway. I hope you never have to learn a lesson like that. Here is a copy of the ADA laws regarding service dogs. Notice where it it says there are two questions the restaurant is allowed to ask? The manager acted properly.

  • margaret

    Here is the problem. Some people’s doctors gave them a paper saying they have permission to have their dog with them due to some problem they have, yet not severe enough to get treatment for it. However, the people use it with their family pet, rather than get a dog that has been through training to be a service or therapy dog. Anyone can buy the vests online. I think they need to start putting a tag on a dog who has been through training, so places of business will know if it is a legit service or therapy dog, not the paper they have convinced their doctor they need. They need to crack down on this, people are taking dogs everywhere, dogs dressed like babies, etc, obviously not a trained service or therapy dog. (A service dog is trained to do an actual service, something they do that the person cannot do for themselves). This is disrespectful to the people, like vets and people with autism, who need their service or therapy dog. States need to start regulating this, I think. The restaurant had every right to ask this question, and should ask everyone who comes in with an animal. I think they need to carry the actual papers from the place that trained the dog, not vague papers from a doctor’s office.

  • Sean

    There is a legal difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal. A service dog performs a task the person can not do on their own. Asking what the task the animal provides is legal. A restaurant is not required to permit entry to an emotional support animal. The manager was actually correct.

  • Catherine

    FYI, Memorial Day is not specifically “a time to remember our nation’s veterans”, and as far as I know, we do not have a day solely dedicated to those who have gone to war to help keep the country free. You may be thinking of Veteran’s Day, which honors all members of the US armed forces. Memorial Day is a day to remember those who died while serving in the United States’ armed forces.

  • David (USA Retired)

    There is quite a bit of misinformation and missing information. There is NO government agency that issues a service animal ID card. Companies exist that will charge you handsomely for their version of an unofficial, “official” ID card. The handler does not have to produce a doc’s note, certification papers or any sort of ID. The manager was correct in asking and we don’t know what, if any, questions the veteran replied to or how he replied if he did. There are quite a few fake service dogs out there hurting those of us who use them and I think it won’t be too much longer and the loopholes in the ADA will be fixed enough to minimize the fakes. Until then, managers need to realize that if the dog causes a disturbance or creates a safety or health hazard, the team can be asked to leave.

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