Service dogs aren’t your typical companions. They’re trained to do impressive tasks to keep their humans safe and comfortable. But even though the law allows service dogs in all public areas, there are still people that see them no differently from other dogs.
Jacky’s Waterplace and Sushi Bar in Rhode Island turned away a teenager and her service dog. The family was outraged by this discrimination, so they are now suing the restaurant.
A Birthday Disaster
Haylee Mota and her family visited Jacky’s Waterplace for her 17th birthday. Of course, her Golden Retriever named Nicky accompanied her as she always does. Mota was born with congenital amaurosis. So, she’s legally blind and can only see light and shadow. She needs Nicky to help her around obstacles and locate seats, doors, and stairs.
Yet, the restaurant refused to seat the family inside or on the patio because of Nicky. They said no dogs were allowed. The best they were willing to do was set up a table in the parking lot. Mota was embarrassed and furious.
“It was frustrating,” said Mota. “I know my rights under the [Americans with Disabilities Act]. Any establishment open to the public is open to a service dog.”
The manager contacted Kin Wah Ko, the owner of the establishment. He confirmed that the staff were correct and insisted that no dogs were allowed. A line formed behind the family, and people watched in horror as staff turned the blind teenager away. The family left and chose to dine at the Rooftop at the Providence G instead. They were welcomed there with no questions asked.
Service Dogs are Essential
Mota’s family is now suing the restaurant owner for discrimination against her disability. They failed to give her the same service in the restaurant that every other guest received. She also claims that this experience caused mental and emotional harm to her.
Mota is a successful student at East Providence High School. Her goal is to study mechanical engineering despite being the first blind student in her school to take an engineering class. Her teacher says she is at the top of the class regardless of her additional challenges. The community even raised money to help her afford the equipment she needs to pursue her career goals. She’s a hardworking individual that doesn’t let anything stop her.
But sadly, Ko refuses to admit that he and his staff were wrong. He denied the allegations from Mota’s family. Yet, his lawyer hasn’t made any comments about the situation.
“I think we need to reinforce equal rights and equal protections for people with disabilities,” said Robert Caron, Mota’s lawyer.
Those with service dogs shouldn’t have to feel out of place in public areas. So, Mota will fight for all service dogs to have the rights they deserve. After all, when service dogs are out and about, they’re not just companions, but they’re workers too. Thus, they need to be treated with respect, especially since the law requires it.