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.