Garrett Loughran of Huntley, Illinois served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and, as a result, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His service dog, Hershey, a 5-year old Labradoodle, allows him to lead a normal civilian life, keeps him calm in crowds, and provides him with a necessary medical service, much like a wheelchair to someone without the use of their legs.
By law, service dogs are granted full access to any and all places their handler goes. This includes restaurants, retail stores, airplanes, and other locations that don’t typically allow dogs. Service dogs are not considered pets, but are a medical necessity.
But, when Garrett, Hershey, and Garrett’s mother went out to enjoy a pre-Memorial Day lunch at Houlihan’s in Algonquin, they were turned away at the door by the restaurant manager.
“He had his red cape on that said he was a ‘service dog,’” said Laura Wills, Garret’s mother, told WGN TV. “We have the papers with us but she just said ‘Well, we don’t allow dogs in the restaurant. What type of service does he provide?’ And my son said ‘You’re not allowed to ask that.’”
Upon complaint to the restaurant chain’s headquarters, Houlihan’s immediately took action. The chain immediately fired the Algonquin restaurant manager, issued a public apology, and donated $2,000 to Pets for Vets, an organization that trains and provides service dogs to veterans.
From Houlihan’s via Facebook:
“All, thank you for bringing to our attention the situation with the Veteran and his service dog that visited us yesterday. What a terrible way for all of us to start off our Memorial Day. Our former manager’s interaction with this Veteran and his mom lacked the respect, compassion and hospitality we expect all our employees to deliver with any and every guest walking through our doors. The poor reception given to him caused him to leave and take his business elsewhere. We are not proud of such a low moment, and we’d like all of you to know this is NOT representative of the kind of company Houlihan’s is, or the values we have and share as its employees.
To be perfectly clear: Houlihan’s supports and appreciates all veterans and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for this country. We have and will always allow service dogs in our restaurants. We sincerely regret that Mrs. Wills and her son had such a poor reception inside our doors yesterday; and we have taken the necessary steps to make sure our guests with service animals feel welcomed.”
Garrett told WGN that the donation is very generous, but that the awareness of service dog rights raised by the ordeal is priceless.