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Ask Questions Before Barring Dogs, Owners

After an August incident, the owners of an Albuquerque tavern agreed to pay a fine and give their staff training on how to accommodate people with disabilities and service dogs. (Adolphe pierre-Louis/journal)
After an August incident, the owners of an Albuquerque tavern agreed to pay a fine and give their staff training on how to accommodate people with disabilities and service dogs. (Adolphe pierre-Louis/journal)
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Maloney’s Tavern in Downtown Albuquerque co-opted this rather unoriginal yet effective bar-friendly cliché on its Twitter page: “Where everybody knows your name.”

After this week, if you didn’t know the Maloney’s name – and if your youthful beer-swilling, singles-swinging, party-puking days are as stale as “Cheers” reruns, chances are you didn’t – you will now.

But not in a good way.

Last Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced it had reached a settlement with Maloney’s owners over a troubling incident involving a woman who was ridiculed and refused service for taking her service dog into the tavern at Fourth and Central NW.

MasDonald LLC, the Scottsdale, Ariz., corporation that owns Maloney’s, does not dispute the facts as alleged, according to the settlement agreement. So here goes.

Susan Cash, her dog and her friend had gone to Maloney’s for lunch on Aug. 13. Cash’s service dog is a necessary companion, because she has multiple sclerosis.

They had just settled in when the bartender yelled from across the room that they couldn’t bring the dog inside but could be served in the outdoor seating area.

“I was thrown out and told I could sit in the 92-degree sun outside, but I would not be allowed inside the air-conditioned area with my service dog,” someone named Susan, who we can reasonably assume is the same Susan Cash, wrote in an August review of Maloney’s on Urban Spoon, an online restaurant guide site.

Cash told the bartender it was her right to have her service dog with her.

It got worse.

The bartender and a few patrons began making jokes about accommodating the disabled and Cash’s needing to be taken care of by a dog, which they apparently saw as something funnier than not being taken care of by a boorish bartender.

“The bartender let me know they already lost valuable table space by putting in a ramp for wheelchairs but will not violate health regulations by having any dog, whether service or not, in his place,” Susan wrote. “The manager supported this decision and we had to leave or put the dog in the vehicle.”

Even her threat to file a complaint with the Department of Justice was met with disdain.

So Cash, her friend and her dog left, had lunch at a nearby restaurant without any issue and filed a complaint with the Department of Justice.

Calls to MasDonald in Scottsdale and messages left at Maloney’s for comment were not returned. Cash was also unavailable for further comment.

According to the settlement, tavern owners have agreed to pay a $2,500 fine and provide staff with written copies and training on the rules of accommodating people with disabilities and service dogs.

Also, within 30 days of the agreement’s effective date of Jan. 2, you should see a sign – not less than 6-by-12 inches, 48 font, 60 inches from the ground and also in Braille – posted next to the entry door to Maloney’s that reads: “This restaurant welcomes customers with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals.”

Which is about as good a reverse sign-shaming as you can get.

It’s also a way to remind not only the staff at Maloney’s but the public of the federal and state laws that allow service animals in any building open to the public.

“We’ve seen instances identical to what Ms. Cash went through,” said Lindsey Stanek, president and CEO of Paws and Stripes, a nonprofit in Rio Rancho that provides service dogs for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

One of those instances involved her husband, Jim Stanek, spokesman for Paws and Stripes and an Iraqi war veteran with PTSD, a traumatic brain injury and a service dog named Sarge.

He and Sarge were flying back from a fundraiser July 15 when he said his dog was kicked by two United Airlines employees during a layover at Dulles International Airport at Washington, D.C. Another employee called Stanek “retarded,” he said.

The story went viral after it was picked up by national media.

“We were contacted by so many people who said they saw the story and had experienced similar poor behavior because of their service dogs,” Lindsey Stanek said. “It was disappointing to see how much confusion there is out there.”

An investigation proved inconclusive, she said, but United officials invited her and her husband to speak to a disability advisory board meeting in December.

It was, she said, a teachable moment.

So here’s another: Service dogs are not required to wear anything designating them as service animals, though Stanek recommends they do so to avoid any needless confrontation. She also recommends that service dog owners – also not required now to wear or carry a designation – carry a copy of the law.

“Mostly, we encourage a polite conversation in which they explain that a service dog is just the same as medical equipment,” she said. “Most of the time, that takes care of it. But if not, they have every right to call police, who can advocate for the disabled person.”

And if that doesn’t work, they can do what Cash did and file a complaint with the Department of Justice.

The business will know your name after that. And the rest of us will know theirs.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, jkrueger@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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