Yesterday the manager of a Houlihan’s in Algonquin, Illinois, was fired after refusing service on Sunday to a patron who came in with his five-year-old service dog, a labradoodle named Hershey, and his mother. A veteran who has served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Garrett Loughran of Huntley, Illinois, uses a service dog to help with his PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.
Most restaurant managers are aware that by law, a service dog is allowed to be taken everywhere. Hershey was wearing his red cape that said he was a service dog. His mother, Laura Wills, told WGN that “We have the papers with us but she just said, ‘Well we don’t allow dogs in the restaurant. What type of service does he provide?’ And my son said, ‘You’re not allowed to ask that.” The manager of the restaurant refused to allow them inside to eat lunch.
Loughran was surprised by the treatment, especially since it was the day before Memorial Day, and the family complained to Houlihan’s. In reply they received the following statement from a senior manager.
“There is no apology that is sufficient in this circumstance. This is inexcusable. I will ensure this is addressed and that no other person has to endure what you and your son did today.”
Houlihan’s reportedly confirmed that the manager who turned them away has since been fired and that the corporation is donating $2,000 — which is the cost of training one service dog — to Pets for Vets.
Loughran said, “I expected that by this day and age everybody knows what service dogs are and they should be more accepting of veterans like me who have to have a service dog to acclimate themselves to this new world again.”
On Monday, Memorial Day, the restaurant posted this statement on their Facebook page:
“All, thank you for bringing to our attention the situation with the Veteran and his service dog that visited us yesterday. What a terrible way for all of us to start off our Memorial Day. Our former manager’s interaction with this Veteran and his mom lacked the respect, compassion and hospitality we expect all our employees to deliver with any and every guest walking through our doors. The poor reception given to him caused him to leave and take his business elsewhere. We are not proud of such a low moment, and we’d like all of you to know this is NOT representative of the kind of company Houlihan’s is, or the values we have and share as its employees.
To be perfectly clear: Houlihan’s supports and appreciates all veterans and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for this country. We have and will always allow service dogs in our restaurants. We sincerely regret that Mrs. Wills and her son had such a poor reception inside our doors yesterday; and we have taken the necessary steps to make sure our guests with service animals feel welcomed.
Today, Pets for Vets issued this statement on their Facebook page:
Pets for Vets would have been honored to have worked with the veteran who was mentioned in the news report on WGN TV late yesterday. However, Pets for Vets provides trained companion animals or emotional support animals to our veterans, not service dogs. While we appreciate Houlihan’s offer to donate $2,000 to Pets for Vets, we believe those funds should go to Paw Pals Assistance Dogs, the organization that appears to have trained the service dog in the report, so they are able to provide a assistance dog to another veteran in need. We thank everyone for their support and their continued compassion for our veterans who suffer from PTSD.
We hope other restaurants will take note and understand that this is the law of the land, so instances like this will not be repeated. And bravo to Pets For Vets for passing on the information and the donation to the correct charity.