Society

Florida Couple Says Restaurant Called Police Over Their Service Dogs

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A Florida couple says a Pinellas County restaurant called police to have them and their service dogs escorted out.

Lior Shar and her husband Dr. Richard Davis were having breakfast at Maggie Mae’s in Clearwater Beach on Saturday, when the restaurant manager allegedly approached them and accused them of being fakes.

"You are to leave this restaurant immediately and never to come back. I do not believe you that the dogs are service animals,” Shar recalled the manager saying.

"This was humiliating. It was certainly discriminatory in nature," she said.

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The couple says they both have disabilities that require trained alert dogs. The dogs are Maltese-Yorkie mixes - "morkies."

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act not only can disabled citizens not be denied any services offered to the public, but they are also not required to disclose the nature of their disability or their service animal’s training.

"It's designed to help people like ourselves, who have a disability where we need our service animals with us in order to function normally," Davis said.

"The only inquiry that's allowed is ‘Is this a service dog and what services do they provide?’" civil rights attorney Ryan Barack told First Coast News.

The restaurant worker who called 911 reportedly told the dispatcher: "They are saying that their dogs are service dogs, but I don't think that they are. Now they're cussing and acting irate in front of other guests."

Maggie Mae’s told First Coast that it is retraining its staff about the ADA.

Davis and Shar told the news channel that they will file a discrimination complaint against the restaurant with the Pinellas County Office of Human Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice.

"When you stand up for yourself and the disability you have, you're really standing up for everybody that has a disability," says Davis.

Sources: First Coast News, WKMG-TV

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Robert Jenimus, WTSP