People with disabilities, service animals, have rights

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Dear Editor,
 
As we begin 2014, it is very sad to see and experience the decimation which exists. The American Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. It states: “Any business that sells or prepares food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.”
 
When one becomes disabled or handicapped and needs assistance it has a twofold effect on that person. First it is difficult to accept the fact that you are no longer as independent as before and secondly, there is a joy that there exists help. This help may be in a number of forms ranging from parking permits to service animals. My service animal, Cherie, is a very small poodle that is always well groomed, does not wear bows or nail polish and is very well behaved. She is a regular at church, eats in restaurants, travels on airlines, works in my office and has even been in surgery with me several times.
 
On Nov. 29, 2013, we entered a food establishment in Cuero to get a to-go plate. Cherie was in my arms not making any noise or movement. She had tags on her harness with service dog and her certification card with picture ID was around my neck. As I approached the counter to place my order, a very loud male voice came from the back saying, “Hurry and get that woman out of here with that dog.” I tried repeatedly to show them her certification tags but no one would even look at them. The to-go plate I did get was not complete as the food was more or less tossed into the box, no packet with a fork and napkin, and no inquiry if I cared for a drink or dessert. I just left.
 
The next day, I asked law enforcement to go and speak with them which they did. The owner called me Monday asking about the problem and asked what could be done to resolve it. She told me the workers told her all the people eating were talking. Please stop for a moment and think, if someone yells out, “Look at that woman in the red dress,” just by instinct you will look to see who it is.
 
I was publicly embarrassed. All I asked the owner was for a public apology. I have not received that apology so I will file a case with the Department of Justice.
 
I received very poor service because I had a service dog and Cherie was treated poorly because she is small.
 
I strongly urge you not to do business with any business which has such little respect for its customers, especially the disabled. Although we hope not, you may become disabled in the future and be a victim of such decimation.
 
Respectfully submitted for community awareness,
Dr. Barba Patton and Cherie
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