Military veteran with service dog says Saskatchewan restaurant turned him away

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PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. - A military veteran who needs a service dog says he was turned away from a restaurant in Saskatchewan.

Michael Sharron, who has post-traumatic stress disorder, says he needs the dog, Rylie, with him for medical reasons.

Sharron says he and his father-in-law went to a Smitty's restaurant in a Prince Albert mall for lunch on March 3.

He says they were greeted by a man, who turned out to be the owner, and who told them that dogs weren't allowed.

Sharron says he explained that he needed Rylie with him for medical reasons, but when asked what they were, Sharron wouldn't go into details.

Owner Ray Littlechilds says Sharron gave no indication he was an Armed Forces veteran.

“I told him that he was a service dog, and he was certified, and he said, ‘Is he a seeing-eye dog?’ I said, ‘No, he’s for a medical service for a condition that I have,’” Sharron said.

Sharron also explained he had paperwork for Rylie.

Service dogs can help people with PTSD manage their symptoms. Sharron keeps Rylie’s leash tied to his waist and the dog provides him with a distraction.

The conversation between Sharron and the man was loud enough to draw attention from other people in the restaurant, said Sharron, who is from Shellbrook, Sask.

“I’m looking around and feeling like if I can crawl into a hole, I would,” he said.

Littlechilds emphasized his support for Canadian military veterans. His uncle died in combat and other family members have served.

“We couldn’t allow him in on the way he talked to us,” Littlechilds said. “He says, ‘This is none of your business’ ... and I said, ‘Well, I can’t let you in.”

Sharron said he decided not to press the issue. He started to leave, but briefly sat on a bench near the exit to make a phone call to Rylie’s trainer.

He said Littlechilds told him he would have to go out into the foyer of the mall to do that.

Sharron called a lawyer for Manitoba Search and Rescue, which trained and provided his service dog. The lawyer has been in contact with Littlechilds.

The owner said another person came to the restaurant days later to scold him and to tell him that Sharron is a veteran. Littlechilds told the man he had no idea that was the case at the time.

“We would have been happy to have him as a guest, as far as an individual," he said. "I don’t stop people from coming to my business. I welcome every single customer there is. It doesn’t matter what you are, what colour, what race, if there’s any disabilities whatsoever, they are welcome at Smitty’s.”

He said he would welcome Sharron back.

“All we were trying to do was live by the letter of the law of the health regulations and purposes. That’s something that’s very strict."

Earlier this year, a military veteran based in Cold Lake, Alta., was not allowed to board an Air Canada flight with her service dog. She was told she could travel with the pet for a fee. She, too, has PTSD and owns the dog because it helps her stay calm.

The airline later apologized.

(CKBI, The Canadian Press)

Organizations: PRINCE ALBERT, Air Canada

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Shellbrook, Sask. Im, Cold Lake

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  • Chloe-Service Dog information
    March 22, 2014 - 08:18

    I have partnered with a Service Dog for several years and have learned the actual regulations for my province. They are pretty much the same across Canada with the only difference being where in law the rights of disabled people are found. I am disturbed by the lack of information in this story. First of all, Service Dogs ARE allowed anywhere a person can go with the exception of sterile fields--ie. a kitchen or parts of a hospital. Service Dogs are meant to be the equivalent of medical assistance. The owner of this business is allowed to ask 2 questions: Do you need this Dog for a disability and What task(s) is the Dog able to perform? If a the Service Dog partner does not answer these questions then the business owner is legally allowed to turn them away. An owner is not allowed to ask if the Dog is certified (there is NO certification process for Service Dogs in North America and what makes a Service Dog is specific training to mediate a disability) or to even ask to see a letter from a doctor requiring the Dog (a letter/prescription is required for partnering with a Service Dog). It matters not a smidge that Sharron is a veteran in this circumstance; Dogs serve a wide range of people. What matters is that there seemed to be a lack of awareness of the law on both of the individual's part. It is illegal for a person without a recognized disability (visible or invisible) to claim their pet is a Service Dog and you can often tell these people by watching how their dog's behave. Dogs that offer emotional support to their owners do not qualify for the same rights as Service Dogs.

  • Concerned Grandmother
    March 21, 2014 - 20:50

    This is sad and very unfortunate, but why didn't even the father inlaw say something. Perhaps the restaurant manager didn't handle it too well, but how was he to know the situation?

  • Michelle
    March 21, 2014 - 14:59

    This individual provided no proof or explanation other than stating that the dog was a service animal. When questioned further, it sounds like he became defensive but again provided nothing to prove the animal was a certified service dog. How can the owner be blamed for enforcing a no dogs policy if all that was required was someone saying their dog is certified. Everyone and their dog would abuse the service dog policy allowing for special consideration to those who truly do have a need. Unless there is something missing in this story, I don't see where the business owner did anything wrong.

    • oh really
      March 21, 2014 - 17:10

      Seems to me, you only see what you want to see!

  • jon
    March 21, 2014 - 14:04

    There is something wrong with our society. In the town i live in which is Corner Brook, NL dogs are in stores all the time and when someone speaks up about it the reply is always the same....they have never heard of dogs not allowed in stores or the dog is quiet he isnt bothering anyone. I own a dog myself and he has never been inside any store because i have respect for people with allergies and the health code. Yet people with legit reasons and proper paperwork are turned away.

    • dave
      March 21, 2014 - 17:55

      That veteran doesn't, sound like anyone I would want to know.

    • dave
      March 21, 2014 - 17:58

      That veteran doesn't, sound like anyone I would want to know.