Category Archives: Denied Service

Thanks to the San Antonio Police Department

Service Dog Express would like to send a tremendous thank you to Lt. Miles Earwood with the San Antonio Police Department. Laurie and Lt. Earwood met about a year ago when a Service Dog access question came up – and since then, he has been in constant contact with Laurie to help learn the Service Dog access laws. He and Laurie have been exchanging information these past few weeks, and Lt. Earwood is going to ensure that the SAPD Training Academy new recruits and existing officers become more aware of how to handle SD access issues. This will help our clients tremendously when there are access problems and the police are called (which we always recommend). Lt. Earwood last wrote:

“Dear Laurie:

I have already sent the information you have gathered to our Training Academy Commander and requested they generate and disseminate a training bulletin on the matter regularly.

Take care,
Lieutenant Miles Earwood #4015
Desk: 210-207-6549
Email: [email protected]
Monday – Friday; 7:45 am – 4:30 pm

SAPD’s Guiding Principles:
Integrity – Respect – Compassion – Fairness”

American Airlines Update


July 10, 2015

Dear Ms. Gawelko:

On behalf of American Airlines and US Airways, thank you for contacting us. I’m sorry that I was unable to reach you by telephone earlier today.

The travel experience you’ve described is regrettable, and we apologize for the difficulties Mr. Willis encountered. Our intention is to offer the best travel experience possible. The details you have provided indicate that we have failed to meet our intentions.

I have documented your displeasure with how we enforce our policies as they relate to service animals and emotional support animals and will ensure your comments are forwarded to the appropriate managers for internal review. Our job in Customer Relations is to listen to passenger’s issues and concerns and give each a code for reporting purposes. Feedback of this nature is vital, and will be used in an effort to improve our service.

This method has proven very successful; in fact, many of our current policies, procedures and positive changes are a direct result of customer feedback.

Given the privilege of serving Mr. Willis again, I am confident we can provide him more satisfying travel experience. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us on his behalf.


Kale K.
Customer Relations
American Airlines

Laredo TV Interview

Yay!! A TV station in Laredo is going to interview our client, Elizabeth, who was denied entrance into Laredo establishments in person the next time she is down there in 2-3 weeks! He will call me to get supportive information! Thank you for agreeing to talk to the media Elizabeth and Service Dog, the beautiful Zoe!!

Rita and SD Serene Denied Access

The below was sent to local news networks:  (See the news stories at the end of this blog)

“My name is Laurie Gawelko, M.S., and I am the CEO and Founder of Service Dog Express, LLC, in San Antonio. We train rescue dogs to become Service Dogs for Wounded Warriors and civilians with all disabilities except for the blind. We opened in 2011, and have 21 trainers. We have paired over 300 clients with Service Dogs through professional training since our inception.

I am writing with the hope that you will follow up on this very important news about a restaurant that denied access to one of our clients with several severe disabilities. I have called the restaurant several times to try and get their side of the story, but they have not returned my call. My client actually had to go to Emergency Room after the incident because her blood pressure was raised to extremely dangerous levels.

Ms. Rita Abrego and her Service Dog, Selene, went to Herradero Mexican Restaurant with her daughter and a friend and were ordered immediately to leave by the owner because the owner claimed he is “allergic to dogs and dogs are not allowed in the restaurant”. They actually told her to put the dog in the car. Ms. Abrego attempted to explain that Selena (wearing her clearly marked Service Dog vest) is allowed at any public place according to ADA law, to no avail. The owner also instructed her servers not to serve her.

Ms. Abrego then called the police and filed a report, but the police said there was nothing they could do because it was private property. Police report # 20150164772. The police, who usually know ADA law, did not know this law. The restaurant is not considered private property. Service Dogs are allowed ANYWHERE except military installations and places of worship unless they agree to have them there.

The police did see that Ms. Abrego was getting extremely red in the face and sweating profusely and shaking, and offered to escort her to the ER. She had her friend take her instead, because she was so appalled by the police’s lack of awareness of ADA law regarding Service Dogs.

I would TRULY appreciate it if you would consider doing an investigative story on this, which would include mentioning the restaurant that refused my client.

With my assistance, Ms. Abrego is also going to follow through with trying to sue the restaurant.

Thank you.

KSAT: Woman denied service at restaurant because of Service Dog

WOAI: Woman denied service for bringing Service Dog to restaurant


Discrimination from the DMV, San Antonio

Ah…more discrimination from the DMV, San Antonio:

Babcock Driver License Office of San Antonio, Texas
1258 Babcock Road
San Antonio, TX 78201

To whom it may concern:

I have tried many times to contact you by phone, but I always get a busy signal. I am a Service Dog trainer, and my client is due to take her driver’s test on the 11th. My client has a Service Dog, Sea-Jay, who must be present with her at all times due to her medical condition – Sea-Jay is a medical alert dog. Sea-Jay is also a fully-trained Service Dog who is completely laid-back and absolutely friendly.  My client was told that none of the female evaluators would be willing to go with her for her driver’s test because of the dog in the back – and that she would have to go with a man. My client cannot be around men she does not know – it is part of her disability. For you to deny her access to a female evaluator based upon the presence of a Service Dog is considered harassment of a Service Dog and harassment of a Service Dog handler, a misdemeanor in the state of Texas.

If you do not allow my client to take her driver’s test with a female, I will be reporting you to the police for this misdemeanor.

You may call me at any time at the phone number below.

Laurie A. Gawelko, M.S.

Remember these 3 steps if you are denied entrance

To all clients – very important information. We, of course, have all had incidents perhaps where we were denied entrance with our SDs. It’s CRUCIAL that you remember these three steps if you are denied entrance.
1) Tell the person in charge that this is a Service Dog, and it is against Federal law to deny entrance.
2) If that doesn’t work, call your trainer or call me (210) 201-3641 to have us talk to the manager.
3) Call the police. They are well-versed in Service Dog accessibility. And make sure you notify the person in charge that you are calling the police and do it IN FRONT OF THEM. 911. Let them know it is a Federal offense and they will be charged with a misdemeanor and fined – in some states, it’s a felony.
You have to take these steps and stand up for yourselves and your SDs. Don’t leave. Do what is right. If you don’t have an ID for your SD with the Federal Laws on it, go to the Active Dogs site below and make sure you keep one of these cards or more on you at all times.

Welcome Piper Tensely Willis!!

PiperiCONGRATULATIONS to Wounded Warrior Christopher and his wife Megan, who just had a baby girl – Piper Tensley Willis!!! Christopher and his wonderful SD Maggie were apart for the first two days while in the hospital – humble Christopher didn‘t want the attention to be on, in his words, “the guy with the dog” instead of his wife! How sweet! But it was difficult for him being in a small room with tons of activity and overwhelming amounts of people, trying to get some sleep with an unlocked door – totally understandable with someone with PTSD. He didn’t sleep for 36-37 hours after he took an Ambien after the nurses tried to reassure him everything will be okay. He even woke up several times to change his daughter.

He then decided to go home and get Maggie. When he was walking back into the hospital, he was stopped by Security. The officer wanted to know if I had Maggie’s “papers” with him. He told him no and that ADA states that he didn’t need to have paperwork. He informed me Security at the New Braunfels hospital has had to call the police a few times to confront people with fake service dogs. Maggie had her vest on and she was being her normal laid back self. We (the officer and I) went around a few times and I assured him my SD wasn’t a fake.

MaggieChristopher then talked to the nurses on the floor and they stated that they had already talked to their head nurse and she was aware of Maggie and was okay with her! Yay! The nurses on the floor said that they would talk to the officer if he comes to the floor. I reassured him that if he had any other problems, he could call me asap on my personal cell phone.

Christopher wrote that he was not upset nor mad at security here. He said that security had seen a pattern of events and was just acting accordingly (in security’s eyes). Christopher knows about fake service dogs in the news and also believes they are on the rise. But he didn’t feel that an officer confronting him in the dark in front of the hospital requesting papers was the right approach. I agreed. And, of course, SDs are allowed in any hospital except in certain areas where patients are immunosuppressed or there is radiation.

I will contact the hospital to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. BUT, in the meantime, the great news is that everyone is back home, healthy, and happy!!! I asked how is Maggie responding to the baby, and reminded Christopher to let the bonding between Maggie and Piper start as soon as possible. Christopher said that Maggie was doing great! Maggie is great. He was holding Piper trying to calm her, and Maggie laid her head on Christopher’s lap, saying that Maggie’s mothering nature has shined through again!


Courage to fight harrassment

I’m SO very proud of our client, Lucia, who was getting harassed by bus drivers to and from work with her SD, Lily!!!!! She found the courage to contact them about this, and this is what she received!!!!

“Dear Ms. XXX,

Thank you for contacting Capital Metro regarding an unpleasant experience you had in using the route #331-Oltorf. In your comments, you stated that the operator was not following rules and procedures in regards to having service animals on the bus.

Please accept our apology for this experience with our service. All operators are trained to conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times to ensure a pleasant, safe riding experience for all our customers. The experience you described is not consistent with the quality of service we strive to provide.

We have identified the operator and notification has been sent to the operator’s supervisor for follow-up to this matter. This occurrence will be fully investigated and all appropriate and corrective action will be taken with the operator.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us and thank you for riding Capital Metro. Please feel free to contact us in the future if you have any concerns, questions or suggestions regarding our service. You may reach our Customer Relations Department at 512-385-0190 or via our web site at


Valerie Rivera |Customer Relations Supervisor| 512-385-0190

US Post Office – No Dogs, other than Seeing Eye Dogs

A friend sent this rather shocking message:

“So, I went to the post office today next to Central Market. There was a sign on the door that said “No Dogs, other than Seeing Eye Dogs”. Do you think that Service Dogs are allowed in there? I would think that it would be illegal for them to discriminate on the type of Service Dog allowed.”

4801 Broadway St
San Antonio, TX 78209

Phone number (210) 826-0230