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Mar 17, 2012 7:56 PM by Lacey Steele

Educating businesses on allergy service dogs

A Monument woman and her little girl say they were forced to leave a fast food restaurant because they needed to bring in a service dog.

The little girl suffers from a peanut allergy, and their dog alerts them if any are nearby.

We went with them back to that Arby's to see if they would be allowed back in.

Sherry Mers has video on her phone from last fall when they were asked to leave.

"More specifically we were told that the dog had to get out," said Sherry Mers, founder of Angel Service Dogs. "Asking an eleven-year-old child to leave with her dog and to stand in a corner until police arrive is not the right answer."

Sherry's daughter Riley suffers from a peanut allergy.

The dog she had then, who later passed away, was not allowed in the restaurant.

Now Riley has CiCi, a service dog, who is trained to sniff and sit to alert them whenever she senses peanuts are nearby.

"All it would take is for whoever is preparing my food to have eaten a peanut butter bar for lunch," said eleven-year-old Riley Mers. "CiCi would be able to tell me, wait, no, don't eat that burger. That has peanuts on it."

Riley says CiCi has kept her from going into anaphylactic shock.

"What happens is you stop breathing," said Riley. "You just feel super weak, and then I pass out so I don't remember the rest."

Although dogs that detect allergens are considered service dogs and have always been covered under the law, allergies were never specifically mentioned in the guidelines until recently.

Now, the line "alerting individuals to the presence of allergens" has been added to the ADA guidelines.

These guidelines do deal with restaurants, and a customer can only be asked to leave with their dog if the dog is unruly or not housebroken.

Saturday, Sherry wanted to go back to that same restaurant and try again.

"Hand them the law that specifically deals with service dogs and make sure they understand that, and then just ask if we can go ahead and order what we intend to order," said Sherry.

"Last time we tried to come in here, one of your managers asked my daughter to leave because she had a service dog, so I wanted to bring to you the law," Sherry said to one of Arby's current managers.

Sherry explained she was only there to educate.

The manager of the restaurant, who did not want to comment, apologized to Sherry and Riley, informed them the manager that asked them to leave no longer works there, and said they do follow the law and welcome service dogs into their facility.

They were able to order their food, and CiCi was allowed to stay, which Sherry says is important to a mother trying to keep her daughter safe.

"What my daughter's dog does for her is basically save her life," said Sherry.

Sherry says she hopes more restaurants will train their employees to understand and accept all service dogs.

 

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