A U.S. army veteran says he was humiliated when an employee at a Houston Starbucks refused to let him bring his service dog into the store and demanded that he prove he is disabled.
Yancy Bear learned that he had bone cancer in 2009 after he received a non-combat related injury in Iraq. His left leg was amputated from the knee-down.
Baer was in Houston on a business trip. He is part of an organization that trains service dogs for disabled citizens.
“A gentleman from Starbucks meets me at the door and says I can’t have her in the store,” Baer told KHOU.com.
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He got his beloved physical service dog, Verbena, 14 weeks ago.
“He stated, 'You’re not blind,'” recalled Baer. “It was in your face, loud and bold. I got really nervous. I was shaking because I was being confronted.”
“I explained what all she does, and his next comment was, 'Why can’t you do that yourself?'” he said.
When he finally spoke with another employee who was more reasonable, the employee who stopped him eventually apologized.
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“People with disabilities, you can’t always see those disabilities. You never know what a service dog is for,” said Baer.
He hopes that sharing his experience with discrimination will teach others about service dogs.
“Be careful about who you approach and how you approach it. You’ve got to be sensitive to people,” said Baer. “This isn’t acceptable. It can’t be acceptable.”
Refusing service to a person with a service dog is in direct violation of the American Disabilities Act of 1990.
Starbucks doesn’t have a policy prohibiting service dogs, corporate spokeswoman Laurel Harper told KHOU in a statement.
“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,” the statement said. “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.”