Nathan Schneck, taking his service dog Husker out for a walk on Sunday, was left totally blind following injuries sustained in an automobile accident in 2002. DAVE ANGELL — FOR THE MACOMB DAILY
Reposted from an online story By Mitch Hotts, The Macomb Daily
The manager of the Grand Azteca restaurant in Fraser says he did not fully understand federal law relating to service dogs when he told the Schnecks that other customers were complaining about a dog being inside the restaurant on Friday night. DAVE ANGELL — FOR THE MACOMB DAILY
A Fraser man who lost his sight in an automobile accident 13 years ago says he was stunned when a manager of an area Mexican restaurant asked him to remove his service dog because it made other customers uncomfortable.
Nathan Schneck and his wife, Stacy, had just placed their beverage order Friday night at the Grand Azteca when the manager approached their table and quietly asked them to place the golden retriever in the car due to concerns of other diners.
“At first, I was like ‘Are you kidding me?’ Schneck said Sunday at his home. “This is the first time something like this has happened to me. I was told it would, but I never expected it.”
Schneck, 38, carries a laminated identification card showing he went through 30 days of training with the dog, Husker, at the Leader Dogs for the Blind facility in Rochester. He’s only had the dog a few months.
Husker was wearing his service harness and sat under the table, Schneck said.
He said he explained how private establishments that serve the public, such as a restaurant, are required under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to allow service animals inside.
The ADA defines service animals as any guide dog trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.
Stacy Schneck, who works in human resources, said she has contacted the American Disability Act National Network, which could take up to 90 days to respond.
After trying to explain the law to the restaurant operators, Stacy Schneck said the couple decided to leave and have dinner at Warfield Grill.
“I felt attacked and uncomfortable. We have eaten there before with Husker and never had any trouble until now,” she said.
The manager of Grand Azteca acknowledges he asked the couple to keep the dog in the car, but adds he was only trying to keep other customers happy. Some expressed health concerns about having an animal in the restaurant, he said.
Ezequiel Ramos said he now fully understands the impact of the ADA law and will explain it to customers who may complain about service dogs in the future.
“I am very sorry over this, but now I will know what to tell people,” Ramos said. “I’m sorry I let (the Scnecks) down because they are good customers. I want to apologize to them myself.”
Ramos, who said Facebook postings by Schneck supporters have resulted in threats of violence, maintains he was trying to appease complaining customers. He hopes the couple will demonstrate forgiveness and come back — with their dog.
“We need every customer we can get,” he said.
Nathan Schneck said while he can forgive the restaurant, he has “mixed emotions” about returning. “I’m not trying to ruin anyone’s business, but for me personally, the damage has been done,” he said.
Since news of the incident broke, the couple has been overwhelmed by the public’s response — and not all of it good.
Some people in online postings had mean comments about the incident. But others, including people from as far away as California, have reached out to them online, and a number of neighborhood children dropped off handmade cards of support, including photos of other local dogs to cheer up Husker.
“We needed that,” Stacy Schneck said.