Service Dog Law Has Restaurant Workers in Trouble

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FOREST CITY -- Workers at two local restaurants may face fines because they broke a law they don't understand. They asked a man with disabilities if his service dog was licensed or certified.

When a customer enters a business with a service dog, workers at the business can ask only two questions:

  • Is it a service dog?
  • What task does the dog perform for its owner?

A couple of restaurant workers are in trouble because they asked other questions.

A service dog named Thor can open front doors and car doors for its owner, Roy Thomas of Forest City.

But Thor and Roy were shown the door at a Burger King in Carbondale in July. Roy says it was because Thor wasn't wearing a service dog vest.

He has cellphone video of the exchange.

Thomas then called Carbondale police. After officers arrived, he met with them and the store manager in the parking lot and recorded it on his cell phone.

Later that night, police cited Burger King evening manager Tina Malys for discrimination on account of a guide dog. She's scheduled to be arraigned in November.

The owner of a restaurant in Susquehanna County faces the same charge

Dave Franceski owns Beacon's Restuarant in Union Dale. He says he must ask younger looking customers for proof of age before allowing them to drink alcohol, but in June, when Thomas brought Thor to the Beacon in Union Dale, Franceski asked Thomas if he had a proof Thor was licensed as a service dog.

That question, Franceski says, got him cited by state police even though he allowed Thomas to stay and have dinner.

"I pled guilty like I was told to do," said Franceski . "And I'm going to go to court and find out what the court says. Why not fight it? Because I was told I was going to lose."

"They were obviously unaware that the dog doesn't have to wear a vest," said Roy Thomas.

Thomas says Thor didn't wear a vest because the dog was a puppy, and the vest was too big.

Thomas is a veteran with a back injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. He believes restaurants should either follow the rules or get fined if they deny him service.

"Every time I go out and it happens to me, the first thing I do is I try to educate people. And the only ones that ever get arrested are the ones who fight to the last breath and say, 'no, it didn't happen,' or, 'no, you still can't do it'."

Keith Williams is the Center for Independent Living advocate for the disabled. Williams says restaurants can turn away customers if a service dog acts unruly. He says businesses need to know that more people have, and need, service animals.

"A business owner should not rush to judgment," said Williams. "There are more disabilities around than just someone who might be in a wheelchair, or who might have a visual or hearing impairment."

Because there are more service dogs trained to deal with more conditions, businesses need to hit the books and know the rules.

Those who don't can be brought to court, fined, and have a summary offense of discrimination on their records.


  • Concerned

    I have all the respect in the world for someone with a disability and they should be able to use any means necessary to assist them with daily life, but as a manager of a business, I’ve been confronted with this before. Knowing the laws helps, but since a service dog does not have to have ID or a vest, nor can you ask for any proof, it leaves a lot open for fraud. Like someone said below, it will (And has already in my case) open up the door for anyone to bring an animal into a business and all they have to say is “Yes” to the question “is this a service animal”. They do NOT have to perform any duty, (or have identification) and cannot be asked to do so or provide it. I’ve had MANY questionable animals come in and although you can’t say for certain, you know they are Lap animals that the person totes around or an animal that they cannot leave home alone. They hide behind the disabled that truly need them. The laws need to be re written. There is no reason that said animals cannot wear a vest or at the least a tag on their collar that is a visible sign that they are a service animal and registered to do so. I realize the people with disability’s would not want to advertise that they are disabled, but they mere fact that they have an animal in a place of business that prevents them shows that they have a disability. So the next time I see a 200lb guy walk in with his 100lb Pit Bull, I’ll know he’s a registered service animal and I won’t have to worry about him taking a bite out of a little girl because he can’t leave his baby home alone!!

  • G

    Whats the law say on small businesses that the owners take their dogs to work..ive gone into plenty of small businesses that the owners dog greets you with a sloppy kiss. What happens if the shop owners pet just doesn’t like the service or therapy dog. Theres really nothing you can do about dog on dog if you are indoors where no leash laws apply.

  • Rob

    Did I hear right on the news that this dog can open a car door ??? Has anyone checked to see if this guy is a real Vet?? So many fakes now days.

  • K

    I think the law on this needs to change and FAST. People are going to run with this article and now you are going to see dogs everywhere as experiments and other social media videos..some already take their pets out because they know you cant say the little mini pup in a stroller.
    Maybe not the questions asked like what task does it perform, but I believe this all could have been avoided if the dog wore his vest and doggie ID.
    This guy seems to have some issues and that’s okay, but don’t use your service dog as a weapon against people and stop using your Veteran status to act like a do*che to people!!

  • Mickey Wright

    Rather than explain and teach, Thomas is being a twit. Anyone can bring in a dog and lie–it happens and I have to prove my identity to drink, service animals should be the same. Unfortunately too many are taking advantage of the rule and it only hurts those who really need a service animal.

  • Robin

    As a business owner, I have a problem with people bringing dogs. They claim their dogs are well behaved, have their vaccines, are under control but all the liability falls on me if something goes wrong. I love dogs but unless they are medically necessary, leave them at home. Service dogs have their place and should be clearly marked.

    • K

      Service Dogs are trained to Pee on Command, Eat on Command, Sleep on Command..its like training a Robot.
      The only problem with the law is that it wont change in PA until someone takes a “non-service certified” dog somewhere and it bites someone, that’s when they will change it. This is the Commonwealth of PA, they don’t change anything until someone gets hurts. So, we just have to be patient for that Fake dog to go into a place and bite someone or harm them otherwise.

  • Sutra (@sutra72)

    Service dog vests should be required. Period. There are many ways you could adjust a vest to fit a smaller dog. He was looking for attention in my opinion. And if there is no vest a business owner should have every right to ask . This man is not his only customer.

  • Robert Paulson

    Really?? How many people are well versed in ADA rules/laws? Lawyers, police & the disabled. Sounds like Thomas has got an axe to grind.

  • jc

    Just very curious here and im quoting from above not my words.

    Franceski says, got him cited by state police even though he allowed Thomas to stay and have dinner.

    Thomas is a veteran with a back injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. He believes restaurants should either follow the rules or get fined if they deny him service.

    You were allowed to stay for dinner and was NOT denied service so what is the issue. If the owner asked a question about it couldn’t you (or you woundn’t) just educate the him on what is right?

  • NotaDogfan

    And what about people like myself that have phobias about dogs? If I’m sitting in a restaurant eating and in comes one if these people with their service dog? Am I supposed to quit eating and flee the restaurant? I was attacked by a dog as a child, and have a deep fear of Any dog, doesn’t matter what dog, they terrify me. What are my rights for safety when a service dog is forced into my area?

  • White lies matter

    So he keeps going to new places where people unfamiliar with the laws can get in trouble as he records them. Yes, what a hero this guy is!

  • Brandy

    Roy, thank you for serving our country, but I think this is a little excessive. Yeah, it’s a law but these poor business owners have to worry more about other major issues rather than knowing the laws of a service dog. Plus, is it ethical that the Burger King manager didn’t know she was being recorded?

    Again, thanks, but relax.

  • zelda t

    Actually it is against the law in California to ask what your service dog does for you or why you need a service dog. The ONLY thing you can be asked is to see the tag issued by the county where you live that certifies that your dog is a service dog. The tag should be on your dog.

  • kim McAndrew

    That dog should have had its vest on!! I can walk into a place with my dog and say sure she helps me then she is a service dog! He is looking for trouble walking in all these places with his dog and no one ca ask simple questions about it? If its a service dog then it should of had its vest on!

    • zelda t

      Vests are hot and uncomfortable and bad for the skin and coat. A tag on the collar tells anyone who needs to know that the dog is working.

  • ...

    Roy, get in contact with me. I will take you to a restaurant you will have no problems! Live in Forest City.Thank You for your Service!

  • Karen Terry

    Well I asked someone at Lowes one time if their dog in their purse was a service dog & her response with a wink, she is today. People like that make it hard for the real deal.

  • Shawn

    Service animals absolutely service a purpose. That being said, what stops anyone else from bringing their family pet to dinner or a store?

    • Liam G

      Yes, management is absolutely allowed to ask if the animal is a service animal. If the answer is yes, that is pretty much it. Although you can ask what service the animal performs, there is no need to. Service animals are allowed absolute access. If the animal is NOT a service animal, the owner can be cited for having a non service animal on the premises; if the owner says it is a service animal and it isn’t, the owner of the animal can be cited. Many states require that the animal be certified or identified, Pennsylvania isn’t one of them. This is a trap built into the law.

      • Marie Stoves

        The and that is where the law is wrong. It should be a NATIONAL requirement that ALL SERVICE ANIMALS wear a vest, or collar, or tag, that is ONLY available through a prescription. Plus the person in need of the animal should be required to carry a photo ID that matches the ID on the animal. By making it a prescription item, you can stop the fakers. That said, there ARE stores who have an open door policy for well behaved pets. The law should read that in the event a pet causes injury, the OWNER or HANDLER of the pet is liable UNLESS it can be shown the animal was provoked or otherwise had a legitimate reason to protect its owner.

  • Henry the 1/8th

    Shame on a culture that attempts to dictate what questions can be asked, and when. To prevent hurt feelings, would it be easier to outlaw questions altogether, for they could force people to think?

  • 4xc

    At Walmart, we are told to NEVER ask. Don’t ask about the dog, don’t ask about the disability…. just keep walking and dont even acknowledge that tjere even is a dog and never ever touch or pet it. Businesses aren’t allowed to ask at all, so anyone can take a dog into a store at any time and nobody is allowed to say a word about it.

  • Jason

    A business IS allowed to ask if a dog is a service dog and you’re required to show a doctors note if the dog is not wearing a vest (which makes it “not really apparent” that a dog is a service animal). If the dog is wearing a vest then you can only ask those two questions.

    • Jeff

      You are incorrect. Under the ADA businesses are never allowed to ask for any form of documentation related to the service dog. Vest or no vest they may only ask the two questions.

      • William

        Jeff you are correct…those are the rules under the ADA laws and technically the service animal doesn’t even have to wear a vest. I have a service dog for my PTSD & Anxiety and she has a vest for clear understanding. Under the ADA laws and my attorney a true service animal is granted to the person either by a physician or psychiatrist or both. In the 4yrs I’ve had my service dog I’ve only had 2 discrimination complaints against someone. I do understand that it’s hard to weed out the fake ones from the real ones but it’s easy to spot if you know what to look for. The real service dog will be very well behaved and no barking unless trained to do so because of a threat. I see it all the time.

      • Liam G

        Rules are slightly different for restaurants/foodservice areas. Unlike retail, which has no limitations, foodservice has two sets of laws to comply with. Service animals are absolutely allowed in serving areas per ADA, but you are allowed to verify.

  • laura

    2 different places 1 man and his dog……mr thomas was looking to make a big deal out of this for what ever reason. this makes everyone else who has a service animal look bad

Comments are closed.