Service Animals

By: Kirsten Gladding
By: Kirsten Gladding

A disabled Harrisonburg man says a local restaurant has discriminated against him, but the restaurant says he's being unreasonable.

When Dean Boitnott went to Jess' Lunch last night with his wife and his dog, he was asked to leave. But Dean Boitnott's dog isn't a pet, he's a service animal, one that Dean uses to help with his disability.

Boitnott, who has the dog to help him pick up objects or make calls in the event that he were to fall says, "They associate only blind people with service animals, but they're not. They're for people who have all kinds of problems. Hearing issues, people that need help to pick things up and down and in my case, that's why I get them.

The U.S. Department of Justice agrees and Jess' was required to serve Dean and his wife, but George Floros, the manager at Jess' thinks Dean is taking advantage of this law.

"If the man has a problem, if the man has a disability and he's got his wife, can't the wife take care of that for him. Does he need to have the dog too?"

Floros fears that the customers who don't realize that Dean is disabled may get the wrong idea about the dog and his restaurant as well.

"The customers do not know what his problem is, he shows no problem so they're not going to come back. They're going to say, Jess' Lunch, they allow pets in there now! So why would they come back?"

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Website, people with service dogs must be allowed anywhere other customers go. They cannot be separated from other customers.


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