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Woman says she was kicked out of Columbus Co. restaurant over service dog, owner disputes the claim

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 5:13 PM EDT
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HALLSBORO, N.C. (WECT) - For those who struggle with disabilities, a service dog can make all the difference in the world. But one incident that took place at a restaurant in Hallsboro has a woman claiming she was discriminated against for having a service dog.

The owner of the restaurant said she did ask the customer to leave — but not because of the dog.

A video that captured some of the incident was uploaded to Facebook by the dog’s owner, who also runs a nonprofit that helps veterans get trained service dogs.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

A law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sets ground rules at the federal level that everyone must abide by. These laws include things like wheelchair accessibility, handicap parking spaces, and, protections for service animals.

“Under the ADA, state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is allowed to go,” according to the ADA’s website.

Furthermore, anyone with a service animal can’t be told to remove the animal from the property except for two reasons:

“The dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence,” according to the ADA.

For owners who might not have obvious disabilities, staff is permitted to ask two questions: Is this a service dog, and what task has the dog been trained to perform?

The incident in question

Ally Nass was with her dad and her daughter getting breakfast when she brought her service dog, Trump, into the dining room.

That’s when she says the owner of the restaurant, Gwen Turner, told her she needed to take the dog back outside. Nass says she told Turner that the dog was a trained service animal and that she needed him with her. While Turner admits she did ask Nass to take her dog outside, she says the entire incident was a misunderstanding and that she was polite about the situation.

“At that time, it being such a small place and me really truly not knowing that she needed the service dog, because she never had a dog before. I came and asked her nicely to, ‘please, if you don’t mind, put the dog back in the truck,’ just as nicely as I could. Well, at that time, she went over the edge,” Turner said.

Nass tells the story differently.

“Gwen, the owner, walked over and said, ‘you can’t have that dog in this restaurant.’ I said ‘ma’am, this is a service dog’ – ‘I don’t care you can’t have him in here.’ I said ‘ma’am, yes I can I am protected with the Americans with Disabilities act; this is a federal law that protects me and my service dog, this is not a pet,’” Nass recalled.

Nass recorded some of the encounter and uploaded the video to Facebook, where it has been seen thousands of times in addition to hundreds of comments and shares. The video begins seemingly in the middle of the encounter, Nass is recording Turner asking her to confirm that she was kicked out because of having a service animal. Turner told WECT she did not know that she was being recorded but said she didn’t ask her to leave because of the dog.

“No, it was not because of the dog. I asked her to leave because she was being very disrespectful to me and it was unacceptable,” she said.

In the video, it is clear that both women are agitated and the dog does appear to have played a role in the situation.

“You’re not going to have a dog in my damn restaurant,” Turner says at one point in the video.

Despite the video from the incident, Turner says she would have reacted differently if it was a customer who simply explained that they needed their service dog, instead of reacting the way she claims Nass did.

“I’m not against service dogs by no means whatsoever. If a customer were to come and it be a veteran or whomever, and truly, truly need that, you know what, I would rethink all of that and I would do what I needed to do. But the situation was not that way,” she said.

For Nass, she says that she plans on following up with legal action against Turner. Anyone who feels like they have been discriminated against for having a service animal can file a complaint with the Department of Justice.

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