by: Scott Wickersham Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A veteran said he was not allowed into a gas station in Charlotte with the service dog he has for physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
He said he had to call the police just to get in.
Marine veteran Nick Cox's dog Ralphy helps stabilize him and calm him down.
Monday morning at the Circle K on Sunset Road in north Charlotte, the manager asked him and Ralphy to leave.
“He would not allow me to finish my purchase and asked me to leave the store,” Cox said.
Cox had to call the police, who told the store manager he and his dog have every right to be there.
“It made me feel very upset, a little angry, because this is the country I fought for,” Cox said.
The store manager said Cox didn't present paperwork, like a badge, for his service dog at first, and that's why he asked him to leave.
The law states he doesn't have to. According to federal law, a person just has to say that this is a service dog, and what service they provide, to be allowed into any establishment.
Debbie Lange at Dog Knowledge trains service dogs and says they're safe.
“All of these dogs have thousands of hours of training. They are hand-selected at 8 weeks of age to have the right temperament,” Lange said.
Veterans groups blame incidents like this on ignorance.
“I think a lot of education is needed to be able to approach veterans and welcome them into the community, and an incident like that is not very welcoming,” said Charisse Byron with Charlotte Bridge Home.
Cox just hopes it doesn’t happen again to him any anyone else who needs a dog to overcome a disability.
“I was shocked to see Americans could be this ignorant to a service animal,” Cox said.
Federal law also states business owners can only refuse to allow service animals when the animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. That can include service animals that display vicious behavior towards other guests or customers.