Upstate vet was turned away from restaurant over service dog

South Carolina News

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WCBD) – An Upstate veteran says he was turned away from a local restaurant for bringing in his service dog.

His Facebook post about it has more than 40,000 views just 4 days later.

We spoke with both the vet and the restaurant to clarify what people need to know when it comes to the law.

4-year-old Cooper didn’t know Tony Swett during his 3 tours of duty but that doesn’t matter. His job is to bring Swett back to the present.  

“You don’t have to be blind to have a service dog and I have PTSD. And it’s a real thing and I have Cooper to be there with me,” Swett said.

And yet, Swett said on Thursday when he went to Village Tavern in Spartanburg, he was questioned by the owner about his disability and told to leave.

His Facebook post has more than 40,000 views. His goal of the post: To educate people about the law.

In the post, he said, “18 years in the military and I was turned away and told me I was not welcome to come in her establishment with my certified PTSD service dog.”

Bill Brightman, the founder of Service Dogs for Veterans, said restaurants are not exempt.

“A private facility that’s open to the public cannot deny entry to someone that has a disability, period.  If they have a walker, a cane, a service animal, they are all considered medical necessities under the law,” Brightman said.

He added that it’s legal to ask someone if they have a disability and even what their animal is trained to do, but not what that disability is.

“I was mad. I was upset. I was embarrassed,” Swett said.

Village Tavern owner, Melody Peterson, told us she was worried the crowd could hurt the dog, but now sees her error.

“I’m deeply sorry for hurting him this way.  I’m going to really read up more on it and even know more about it now,” Peterson said.

Swett is just relieved Cooper did exactly what he was trained to do.

“Just totally calmed me down and he actually got me to the point to where I could go home and want to educate, instead of lashing out. He helped me out, that’s for sure,” he said.

Part of the education, is that store owners have rights, too.  

If a service animal is misbehaving, like barking a lot, threatening anyone or making a mess, then they can ask them to leave.

Some might find it hard to distinguish between a comfort animal and a trained service dog.

If it’s a comfort animal, they have the choice to ask them to leave, but not a service dog.

And to figure that out, again, you can ask the two questions:

  1. Do you have a disability?
  2. What is the dog trained to do for that?

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