Jared Goering, a veteran who served in the U.S. Army for nearly two decades, says he was mocked and asked to get off a New Jersey boardwalk by a police officer -- all because he had a service dog.
Goering, according to WMGM-TV, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has some physical hardships after serving two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. He is aided by a trained, certified dog.
Jared Goering was kicked off a New Jersey boardwalk for having his service dog. (Image: WMGM-TV screenshot)
Last week, Goering and his wife were walking on the boardwalk in North Wildwood, New Jersey, when they were approached by a police officer and told to leave the boardwalk because of the dog.
"He mockingly asked if all veterans get service dogs," Jared’s wife, Sally Goering, told WMGM.
According to the boardwalk and beach rules, dogs are not allowed into areas with signs stating "Domestic Animals Prohibited in This Area." The Americans with Disabilities Act states, though, that these trained animals are allowed "to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go."
That night after the incident, Goering said he lost sleep over it.
"Just like any veteran with disabilities with a service dog, to come back and be harassed and shown no respect, it upset me - it really bothered me. I was up most of the night thinking about it," he told WMGM, noting he thought, given their line of work, the officer would have been more understanding.
The service dog serves both as a physical and emotional aid for Goering. (Image: WMGM-TV screenshot)
Although Goering's dog mainly helps him with mobility, as he has trouble walking and with stairs, "Navigator" (or Gator for short) also serves an emotional purpose.
"I also suffer from PTSD, severe anxiety, depression - and my dog plays a big part in my life," WMGM reported Goering saying. "His main purpose is mobility but he also helps me with all my emotional problems from combat."
TheBlaze has previously reported on the benefits such animals can have for veterans with such disorders that cause anxiety and other debilitating symptoms. The ADA includes dogs that serve for more emotional disorders in its definition of a service animal as well.
"We want the public to be aware that there are different types of disabilities and different types of service dogs - and police officers need to be educated about this," Sally Goering said.
Goering's experience isn't an isolated incident either. Veteran Colin Rich, who was a sergeant major in the U.S. Army serving for 21 years, received a service dog for aid after his vision was reduced to 35 percent when he was shot in the head in combat.
All he wanted was a slice of pizza, he told TheBlaze, but he was refused service.
Rich's experience happened several years ago, shortly after he received his service dog in 2006. He said he tried to explain to the restaurant owner he was within his rights to have the dog there -- even other patrons were telling the owner that too, Rich said.
Rich then called the police, who he said refused to read the license with the law he was trying to show them.
"This is what you call a 'GI -- government issued -- town'," Rich said of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Without the military's presence, local businesses wouldn't thrive the way they are, he noted.
But after this incident reached local media, Rich said, the restaurant owner received death threats from as far away as California and some locals boycotted the establishment.
Another incident Rich recalled was on a plane when he was refused a bulkhead seat with extra leg room for his dog. The flight attendant was insisting the dog go underneath his seat, which wasn't quite possible given the labrador's size.
It was the pilot of the plane who stood up for Rich at this point, saying the flight would not depart until Rich was in a bulkhead seat.
TheBlaze reached out to Disabled Veterans of America (DVA) regarding the issue of veterans being discriminated against for having service dogs for conditions that might not be physically visible.
David Autry, the deputy national director of communications for DVA, said that he's sure there are cases where there's a lack of understanding for the need of a service animal when a disability can't necessarily be seen. He added that in general he thinks people understand and respect the purpose of service animals though.
"Service dogs can be an essential ingredient in taking back control of your life," Autry said, noting that it "certainly wouldn't hurt" to have an awareness campaign educating people on the importance of these dogs to veterans.
Rich agreed that most people are aware of the rules regarding service dogs.
"I get everything from no reaction to 'is that a service dog?'" Rich said.
"Now in Fort Bragg there are far too many service dogs," Rich said, noting it as an indication of the number of veterans who now need them. "I was an icebreaker."
Goering's incident specifically is currently under investigation, and WMGM reported police saying other circumstances are involved with the case. These circumstances were not elaborated upon.
Watch this report on the incident: