Veteran, service dog kicked out of local restaurant


A local Veteran says he was refused service from a Port Saint Lucie restaurant because of his service dog.

Nelson Melendez spent eight years in the Army with multiple tours overseas.

When he returned home to Port Saint Lucie, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Stormy, a greyhound with months of service dog training, was donated to him to help.

Melendez says he and Stormy went to Bobby's Pizza on Selvitz Road Saturday afternoon.

But when they walked in, he says the owner told him to leave.

He says he tried to explain that Stormy was a service dog.

"At that point, he said, 'What are you gonna do? Just stand there? I told you I only allow seeing eye dogs here," said Melendez, "I was mortified, standing there watching every customer staring at me while he degraded me."

The Americans With Disabilities Act requires all trained service dogs to be allowed into a business.

However, if they're acting aggressively or disrupting business, owners can ask the person to leave.

Melendez says Stormy is professionally trained, never causes problems and is used to help reduce intense anxiety and terror caused by PTSD.

"As far as the ADA is concerned, he's no different than a walker or an oxygen tank. He's medical equipment, when we're out. When we're home, he's my best friend," said Melendez.

Chandra Newman, co-owner of Bobby's Pizza, says Melendez spoke to her husband Bobby.

She apologized but says they've had issues with people trying to take advantage of the law.

"The laws are benefitting the dog owner and not the businesses. When we have customers complaining and having dog hair in their food and saying you will buy my meal, it's kind of a catch 22," Newman said.

Melendez says he holds no ill will toward the Bobby's Pizza, he just wants to spread the word so that no one else has to go through something like this again.

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