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Service dog and owner asked to leave restaurant

By Liz Cosgrove
Published On: Apr 03 2013 07:55:32 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 04 2013 11:43:11 AM CDT

Service Dogs in Restaurants

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

One local woman stood outside Dixie's Diner this morning in protest. She claims the restaurant kicked her and her service dog out.

Service dogs can now be prescribed for all types of conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder and even depression, and that has caused some confusion for restaurant owners.

Christy Forkenbrock has had her service dog, Madame Bijon for more than eight years. It may not seem like your typical service dog, "she senses when my blood pressure rises," said Forkenbrock.

Madame Bijon is a registered service dog.

Forkenbrock has had no issues until one month ago at Dixie's Diner in Idaho Falls. She says she and her dog were asked to leave by a kitchen manager.

"I said I told him this was a service dog, [the kitchen manager] said I don't care, you have to leave, and I said I have proof in my purse that she is a service dog. [The kitchen manager] said I don't care; by law we do have to leave," said Forkenbrock.

Forkenbrock states that her dog was just lying by her feet when she was approached.

General manager of Dixie's Diner Tom Hersh had the day off when the incident occurred, "when she came back and identified the dog is a service animal, I informed my kitchen manager that we will let the dog be in the restaurant. And I told her the same thing when she called me back," said Hersh.

Hersh said he has no problem with service dogs coming into Dixie's Diner.

"We've been open seven years and we've had several service dogs come in," said Hersh.

He said it's just difficult for his employees to determine if a dog is a service animal, especially if they're not well-marked.

So what guidelines are restaurants supposed to follow in Idaho? According to the Idaho Food Code, service animals do not have to wear any type of identification saying they are a service dog.

Nathan Taylor, the environmental health supervisor for Eastern Idaho Public Health District says the Idaho Food Code makes it clear, "as a general rule restaurants aren't allowed to have animals in there. Service animals are an exception, if they are controlled, if their on the floor next to the person who needs them," said Taylor.

According to Taylor, if the animal is not behaving, then the manager of the restaurant has every right to kick out the service dog and its owner.

Taylor says that there are no plans of changing the Idaho Food Code guidelines.

Taylor also says the Eastern Idaho Public Health District has recently seen an increase in complaints of service dogs not being allowed in restaurants.
 

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