Restaurant owners struggle with gray areas in ADA laws regarding service animals

Posted at 11:17 AM, Jul 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-22 13:17:23-04

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    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (WPTV) — You may have seen a person with their dog on a leash the last time you were at a restaurant or store. While some businesses may be dog friendly, dogs are not allowed inside restaurants unless they are a service animal.

But, many restaurants owners feel the law gives them no power to enforce that.

It can take anywhere from three to 18 months to train a service animal.

“We train specifically for what that individual needs,” said Rick Bailey, owner of LoveDog Inc. in Palm City.

Bailey focuses on training service animals for people with mobility issues or mental disabilities like autism or PTSD.

“A lot of people are looking for a reason why somebody needs the dog with them, and a lot of times we can’t see that,” said Bailey.

Most business owners get that. Under “The Americans with Disabilities Act,” a service animal is allowed to go anywhere a person can, including inside restaurants where non-service animals are prohibited.

“We are very much dog friendly,” said Avi Sekeral, owner of Prosecco Cafe in Palm Beach Gardens.

Sekeral welcomes dogs on the outdoor patio of his restaurant. Only service animals can follow a customer inside.

“There’s a few who understand the law and take advantage of the law,” said Sekeral.

Many restaurant owners say it is frustrating that there is no way to identify a service animal. Under the ADA, there is no service animal registry or license recognized.

“The law requires us, allows us, to ask only two questions from a service dog: is this a service dog? If the answer is yes, that’s it,” added Sekeral.

The second question Sekeral is allowed to ask is: what task is the dog trained to assist you with? But then owners must rely on the dog owner’s honesty.

“It’s hurting the people who actually need these dogs,” said Bailey.

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