ASHLAND, Ore. -- People with emotional support or therapy animals are causing some local restaurants some trouble. Multiple restaurant employees said customers are claiming those animals are their service animals. Employees at the Little Shop of Bagels in Ashland come across this misunderstanding almost daily. Last week, a woman got upset when she tried to bring her cat inside, claiming it was a service animal.
"She let the cat out, opened up the carrier, we told her ‘please do not let the cat out. We have to consider other people in the shop that are allergic to cats,’" said manager Mary Ann Caruso.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there is a difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal. A service animal is a dog that helps someone with a disability perform a task, like pulling a wheelchair or alerting someone to a sound.
Emotional support animals don't fall into that definition. If someone walks into a restaurant with an animal, employees are allowed to ask a few questions.
"They can't say 'well what's your disability?’ You can't do that but they can ask, ‘what is your dog trained for? What task does your dog provide?’ They can ask that. People may argue and if they have a fake service dog, well, I don't have to tell you that. Well technically they can ask that," said Dog for Better Lives Training Director John Dach.
Michaela Langston works at a different restaurant that's coming across this issue. Langston also happens to be a dog trainer.
"When I ask those questions to people and I always do just because of being in the dog community, I always ask. I try to do it in the friendliest way possible like 'Hey, I’m a dog trainer I really support you being here. I just want to know that we're not letting in dogs that aren't actually there to mitigate disabilities.’" Langston said.
Both restaurants said letting in other animals can pose health violations.
“A service animal that is okay but if it's anything else we can get in violation for that. Say someone walked in and they’re grading us one day and we didn't know it, we could get flagged for something like that," said Little Shop of Bagels employee Katelyn Bean.
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