Woman denied service at restaurant because of service dog

Business owner says she did not understand range of service dogs

SAN ANTONIO – A woman visiting the Alamo City last week was denied service at Herredero Mexican Restaurant because of her service dog, Selene.

Selene helps Rita Abrego cope with a variety of medical conditions.

"High blood pressure, anxiety, depression," Abrego said. "I have lupus and I have fibromyalgia and back pain. She comforts me when my blood pressure is high or when I'm in pain."

Abrego says a waiter took her party's order at Herredero's, but later returned and said she could not serve them because they did not allow dogs in the restaurant.

"I thought it was just a pet," said restaurant owner, Blasa Reyna. "I was thinking ‘she's not blind.' The other (service)dogs really tall, really big. They're, like, taking the person to the table."

Reyna says she has served customers with service dogs in the past, but those customers' have had physical disabilities that are obvious to others.

She adds that she was unaware service dogs can come in different shapes in sizes, such as Abrego's maltipoo.

Abrego called police during the incident.

"I was shaking, my face was all red. I was getting all swollen," Abrego said.

It wasn't until the police came that Reyna says she understood Abrego had anxiety. Reyna said she never mentioned it.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that "state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go."

According to the ADA, staff are not allowed to ask a person about their disability or require them to provide documentation.

Click here for more information on ADA rules regarding service dogs and commonly asked questions.

"I guess now I'm informed that there are other conditions people need service dogs for other things, too," Reyna said. "I just thought for blind people. I really did."

In Texas, denying a person because of a service dog can come with a maximum $300 fine.

Abrego's service dog was trained by Service Dog Express which requires clients to provide proof of their medical conditions.

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