ABBOTSFORD (NEWS 1130) – A Maple Ridge mother plans to file a human rights complaint after her 10-year-old son’s service dog was kicked out of a Cactus Club in Abbotsford.
The mother, who does not wish to be identified, says the family had been seated for 15 minutes and had drinks on the table when a manager told them they would either have to remove the dog or present paperwork proving the animal was a certified service pet.
“It’s absolutely disappointing,” the mother said. “It’s none of their business what my son’s disability is.”
The mother says her son is autistic and in the last year he has had trouble with self harm and refused to go out of the house. The family got the dog about a month ago, and since then the mom says she has seen a major improvement in her son’s quality of life.
“Getting this dog was life changing. He was starting to come out of his shell. He’s required to walk the dog and go out every day,” she said. “This is a huge setback for him to be kicked out of a restaurant… They have destroyed a lot of hard work that a lot of people put into so that my son can be successful in public.”
She says restaurant staff told her too many customers claim their pets are service dogs when they are not or buy fake vests for their pets online.
“I understand and it’s horrible. Like, if my son came in with a wheelchair, would it have made a difference? I think so, but because they didn’t see a disability in him, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a disability,” she said, admitting she did not have the paperwork on hand.
A Cactus Club executive insists service dogs are welcome, as long as patrons have proof verifying they’re certified.
“The guest did not have paperwork verifying that their dog was certified in British Columbia. As a food-service establishment, regulations set out by Fraser Health and the Province of British Columbia do not permit us to allow uncertified animals in our restaurants,” Cactus Club vice president Christy Murphy said. “We understand that this situation is frustrating for the family. However, we do our best to balance the needs of our guests with the regulations by which we are required to abide.”
Tara Doherty with the Pacific Assistance Dog Society (PADS) says education is the key, because more customers are trying to cheat their way into restaurants with non-certified pets.
“You must have the ID if you want to take your dog out in public,” she said. “To have those legal access rights that have been guaranteed for you under the law, you have to go through the public testing process or you have to get your dog from an accredited school.”
She says the province recently updated legislation to help crack down on fraudulent animal trainers, as well as ensure restaurant staff or other customers are safe from dogs that might be aggressive.