A military veteran with more than two decades of service was asked to leave a Houston restaurant this week because of his service dog — and law enforcement upheld the restaurant’s decision.
Aryeh Ohayon, an Army and Navy veteran, told KHOU-TV that his service dog, Bandit, helps him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“He’s the alert if I start to have a panic attack or start to go into a flashback mode,” Ohayon told the news station.
Ohayon takes Bandit with him everywhere. On Tuesday, that was the Thai Spice Buffet II.
Ohayon says he was denied service at the restaurant because of his dog. Once outside the building, he told KHOU, he called police, but when an officer arrived, he was met with a response that he didn’t expect.
“I told him what my disabilities were. That’s when he said, ‘you’re not blind,’” Ohayon said. “[He said],’I don’t see why you need the dog.’”
According to KHOU, the police department said the responding officer called the Harris County District Attorney’s office and was told the restaurant, as a private establishment, had the right to refuse service.
The police department also told the news station that Ohayon denied having a disability, which would indicate he needed the dog. What’s more, the restaurant’s manager said while the veteran was initially denied service due to the dog, they reversed their stance when he called police.
“It stinks that [Thai Spice] didn’t let him in. The police didn’t back him up and that stinks even more,” Bart Sherwood with Train a Dog, Save a Warrior told the Houston Chronicle.
The case was “cleared as a civil matter,” according to the newspaper
It needs “to be resolved between the two parties,” Houston Police spokesman Victor Senties told the Houston Chronicle.
But Ohayon told KHOU “it feels like your service and experience that you’ve done to defend and uphold the Constitution and protect this country have been belittled.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry last year signed a law further protecting the use of service dogs by disabled individuals. The law requires service dogs be allowed in public facilities and on public transportation. Though a restaurant might be privately owned, the law includes “a restaurant or other place where food is offered for sale to the public” as a public entity.
The penalty for discriminating against someone with a service dog is a $300 and $1,000 fine.
Ohayon is not the first vet to experience issues with his service dog in public. Earlier this year, an Iraq War veteran sitting with his family in a North Carolina restaurant was denied service. Last year, a man in New Jersey said he was mocked by a cop and kicked off a public boardwalk that had a ban on people walking dogs.