Outrage: Veteran and Service Dog Refused Service: Why? - The Mobility Resource

Recently, in an episode that defies common sense, a 21- year Air Force and Iraq War Veteran and his service dog were barred from Big I’s eatery in Oxford, Massachusetts.

The veteran, James Glaser, explained what Big I’s owner told him, “I hear, ‘Get that fake service dog out of my restaurant!”

Russell Ireland, Big I’s owner didn’t consider the canine a true service dog and stated, “This is a post-traumatic stress dog. It’s to give him emotional support. How much emotional support do you need when you are eating breakfast?”

James Glaser and his certified post-traumatic stress disorder service dog, Jack were refused service by Big I’s owner Russell Ireland even after Glaser provided Jack certification proving that the dog was in fact a legitimate service dog.

Glaser responded, “I have his certification paperwork right here. He’s not fake, he’s 100 percent legit.”

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In appalling fashion Ireland responded, “I don’t give a [expletive]. I don’t have time for that. Get out of my restaurant.”

The Iraq veteran called the Oxford Police. Sergeant Anthony Saad with the Oxford PD responded, verified Jack’s paperwork but was unable to convince Ireland to serve Glaser.

Glaser says he will file a complaint with the Americans with Disabilities Act which states that businesses must, “allow someone with PTSD to bring in a service animal that has been trained to calm the person when he or she has an anxiety attack.”

I can understand if Ireland didn’t realize that Jack was a certified therapy dog and initially denied Glaser service but, once he was provided proof the business owner should have immediately apologized and, served this disabled veteran.

What is even more disconcerting is the despicable attitude Ireland displayed towards post-traumatic stress disorder as a whole. Sadly, this attitude is likely rooted in a common collective ignorance about PTSD.

I myself, as a United States Army officer, have not been as informed as my position and rank would lead one to believe. My mentality was simply that the affected person should toughen up- if I’ve made it through my battles and am ok, then others should be as well.

After a while I came to believe that while PTSD existed, only weak people suffered PTSD.

I questioned everyone’s claim in my mind. I established “PTSD prerequisites” such as  being blown up, seeing dead bodies and witnessing your brother or sister in arms killed in action to have “real” PTSD.

But, with time, I began to see my friends and those I served with suffer. Men and women whom I believed were unshakeable pillars of our military community eroded and became shells of themselves. Formerly stellar performers, these individuals displayed poor work performance, lack of ambition, crumbling marriages and substance abuse.

An epidemic of suicides then struck across the military and caused every military leader to reassess their position on PTSD.

I was a Battalion Executive Officer during this time and was stunned when one of my top performing Captains shuffled into my office, stared at the floor and asked, “Sir, I have a doctor’s appointment, can I leave for the day?”

Concerned for his physical health I responded, “Joe, is everything all right? Are you hurt?”

Dejectedly, he answered, “I have to go to the six floor of hospital for an appointment. I have to see the head doctor.”

The sixth floor of the hospital was what has been formerly known as the crazy floor or the psych floor where the “crazies” went. Nothing good came of a trip to the sixth floor and those that did were viewed with disdain and as if they were contaminated.

That moment was when I realized my preconceived PTSD notions were foolish. This Iraq and six year veteran was embarrassed to get help. He was embarrassed that I may ridicule him or worse yet judge him. I also realized that the other officers in the battalion would follow my lead.

I then knew that the way I responded to Joe, the way I treated him, how I responded to having one of my senior officers seek treatment for PTSD would set the tone for my battalion staff. More importantly, my attitude about PTSD would trickle down those officers and senior noncommissioned officers throughout the entire battalion.

Then it would trickle down throughout the hundreds of soldiers in the battalion.

That is the problem with people like Russell Ireland. They speak without knowledge or experience as they spread their ignorance. He may have friends or family members that he influences and possibly some of his customers. These people, in turn, take this message and spread it throughout their sphere of influence.

Ignorance breeds ignorance.

Therapy dogs are critical for those suffering from PTSD. Therapy dogs save lives.

There were 349 military suicides in 2012 which exceeded the 295 deaths of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.  With the military and veteran suicide at disturbing rates, society needs to do better.

Embrace therapy dogs and support our veterans who require them. You may just save a life.

photo credit: abcnews.go.com

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