Service dog denied entry into local business

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- A local man was turned away from a restaurant because he didn't have paperwork to prove his dog was a service dog.

John Wright and his 8-year-Catahoula service dog are inseparable. She can sense when his blood sugar levels are too high, sense when his heartbeat isn't quite right and calms his PTSD.

"She helps me with many conditions,” said Wright. "It’s just an important relationship."

Tuesday morning, they were in Daylight Donuts on North Avenue. Customers started complaining that there was a dog inside. So the owner of the shop felt like she had no choice but to ask the dog's handler if it was a service animal and asked to show identification.

Unfortunately, he did not, so the shop owners asked them both to leave to be safe.

"99 times out of 100 nobody gives you any trouble at all,” said service dog owner and veteran, John Wright.

Legally, service dogs are allowed to go almost everywhere with you.

"Colorado food retail regulations state that service animals are allowed in areas where patrons are allowed," said Mesa County Public Health Inspector Heather Nara. "This doesn't include shopping carts in grocery stores or baskets and it also doesn't include the dining table.”

But some have concerns with that, especially if the dog isn't wearing a service vest or harness.

"We asked the customer just to leave the place,” said Daylight Donuts owner, Wanda Latek.

"There was no indication that there was a service dog, he did not show us anything that said it was a service dog. He claimed that it was a service dog, he had no paperwork,” said customer John King.

Nara said this puts businesses in a tricky situation as they can legally only ask two questions: Is the service animal required because of a disability? And what task has the service animal been trained to perform?

They can't ask for documents proving its service, Nara said.

"The told me it is a service dog but he did not have the papers on him,” said Latek.

So all they can do is take Wright's word. It's a crime in Colorado for someone to misrepresent an animal as a service pet.

"There's no documentation required, it does not need to be present with the service animal,” said Nara.

Mesa County Public Health says if the service animal acts aggressive or attacks then the dog can be asked to leave.

Service animals are allowed in businesses but as of last year, assistance, companion, and emotional support animals are not.

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