Service Dog Denial Leads to Charges for Eatery

Posted January 22, 2011

Charges have been laid against a downtown Barrie restaurant and its owner for denying access to a blind woman.

Although the owner of the Dunlop Street establishment says it is a misunderstanding, many believe it’s a lack of understanding about the Blind Persons’
Rights Act that is to blame.

Barrie police say the woman alleges she was refused service at a downtown eating establishment last July because the waiter did not want her to bring her service dog into the restaurant.

Const. Angela Butler said some retailers may believe that the Trespass and Property Act allows them to deny service to a customer, but “the Blind Persons’ Rights Act supersedes that act,” she added.

“It’s extremely rare that we charge anyone under the Blind Persons’ Rights Act,” Butler said. “In fact, the prosecutor does not remember charging anyone
under that Act in the 20 years she’s been here.”

Yet, Selim Amhad, owner of Nawab Fine Indian Cuisine on Dunlop Street East, believes his restaurant was charged er roneously.

Amhad said he was working in the kitchen at the time of the incident and was only told of it after the police were called.

“My understanding is that the lady came in and sat down with her dog at a table that was reserved for someone else,” Amhad told The Barrie Examiner.

Amhad said summer evenings were very busy and there were no other tables available.

He said the waiter told the woman the table was reserved for someone else, and that she would have to leave. Ahmad said the woman refused, convinced it was because she brought her service dog with her, and called the police from the table.

Everyone is allowed in his restaurant, Amhad said.

“I opened the restaurant to serve all people,” he said.

Under the Act, once a dog has successfully completes an accredited training program, demonstrates socially appropriate behaviour with good obedience skills, and is on a leash, it’s allowed to enter any premises in Canada.

The government has been heavily promoting awareness around accessibility issues, said Marilyn McGale of the Barrie branch of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).

“I’ve certainly heard of instances where people have been denied access, but someone actually reporting it and pressing charges is not common,” McGale said.

“In most instances, once you explain to people why you have a dog, they’re fine with it.”

Article ID# 2941203

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