Man Says He Was Thrown Out Of Store For Using Service Dog

UPDATED: Monday August 30, 2010 1:41 PM

A Marine veteran who uses a service dog said on Friday that he was kicked out of a grocery store for bringing the animal with him.

Joe Lucas usually does his grocery shopping with his dog, Harley, always at his side, but when he stopped at a Sack 'N' Save earlier this week, he said he was yelled at and told to leave, 10TV's Andy Hirsch reported. 

A Marine who served in Vietnam, Lucas said he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and seizures, conditions that Harley is trained to pick-up on before they happen.

"She happens to head-butt you, whine, paw, very annoying until you recognize, you've got a problem coming, go find a safe place to be," Lucas said.

While he carries paperwork identifying Harley as a service animal, Lucas said he has never had to show anyone at a grocery store the paperwork until this week.

Lucas said when he stopped at the store he was told that he could not bring Harley into the store.

"This woman comes over and she says 'You're going to have to get out of the store,' She said 'No animals allowed in a food establishment,'" Lucas said.

Lucas said he tried explain that federal law allows service animals such as Harley inside most businesses, but said the worker shouted at him to leave, and then called the police, Hirsch reported. 

"I was belittled, ridiculed," Lucas said. "I wasn't angry, I was upset and I felt like I was being treated like a criminal."

Lucas said he wants to make sure something like this does not happen to him, or anyone else with a service dog.

He said he contacted the company's corporate office but has not gotten the response he wants.

"I said 'I don't want your money, I don't want coupons, I don't want any of your product," Lucas said. "All I want you to do is admit that you're wrong and apologize.  And then I want you to put a sign on your door that says service dogs are welcome in this establishment."

Lucas said he hopes there is a silver lining to the story and more people understand how valuable service dogs, like Harley, can be. 

The owners of Sack 'N' Save released a statement on Friday that said in part they "Would like to thank Mr. Lucas for his efforts to raise awareness about the challenges disabled veterans face when returning home from active combat. 

Late on Friday, Lucas talked with executives from the store's corporate parent and they told him they would make changes. 
Among them, company officials promised to develop a company-wide policy for service animals and they will institute an educational program for all employees.

The grocery chain said it will also post signs at all its stores welcoming service animals.

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