CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — Service dogs are meant to help people, not be the reason for turning away their owners.
That’s exactly what an Iraq War veteran claims happened at a cafe in Cedar Park, because the manager said the animal “threatened public safety.”
Jeremy Kennard says he and his 3-year-old service dog Athena were kicked out of 1431 Cafe after the manager complained the dog was blocking an aisle.
“My dog can’t fit under the table due to your arrangement of your table, how it’s supported,” Kennard told Rick Klaser, the cafe’s manager.
Kennard fought in Tikrit and Bagdad between 2003 and 2008 and now suffers post traumatic stress.
“Before I got (Athena), I was depressed a lot,” he said.
The veteran said Klaser also told him Athena was a danger to customers, “being rowdy, and just being a bad dog,” Kennard added.
Klaser said the dog was blocking a path and snapping at people walking by, problems he doesn’t usually have with other service dogs. Their owners always made them sit under the table, he said.
“It had nothing to do with him,” said Klaser. “It had to do with public safety and that’s all it is. It has nothing to do with the vets, it has nothing to do with service dogs.”
Klaser says he offered to find another seat out of the way for Kennard and Athena but the veteran refused.
“He wanted to stay in the booth,” Klaser said, “and he thought there was nothing wrong with the dog being where he was.”
Kennard said the manager never made that offer and says he wants an apology, and to be shown some respect.
He and a group of veterans returned to the cafe Saturday to stage what they call a “disability awareness protest.”
“I want people to realize there are thousands of vets coming home, many with PTSD or missing limbs,” said Kennard. “We need dogs to get around. I’m not the only one this has happened to.”
1431 Cafe owner, Scotty Stroup, says it’s just not possible Kennard would have been asked to leave his business.
“I’m a veteran myself,” he said. “I couldn’t be in the public, I couldn’t own businesses if we kicked out people because of service dogs. That’s impossible.”
Stroup believes Kennard has an agenda is tr
The U.S. Department of Justice’s disability rights division says businesses “may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.”