Veteran kicked out of dog park for not taking service dog off leash

Veteran kicked out of dog park for not taking service dog off leash

A Florida veteran said he does not understand why he and his dog were asked to leave a dog park because his dog was on a leash. (Photo by Skip Bolen/Getty Images for Beneful)

They are animals that need to get outside, but service dogs are not like regular pets.

That's part of the reason one former serviceman was surprised when he was kicked out of a Florida dog park.

Veteran Steve Smith said he was asked to leave Dog Wood Park in Jacksonville, Florida, for keeping his helper on a leash.

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Smith said he brought his service dog, Rebel, to the park for training, but said he was kicked out after he was told his dog wasn’t allowed to be leashed.

“A woman from the front office came out and said we had to take the dog off the leash or we couldn’t stay there,” Smith said.

Smith was a Marine for seven years and served in Iraq. He said he was shocked that he wasn’t allowed to stay with his service dog.

“I hate being out in public and hate being around large groups of people," Smith said, "(I) hate going out, period. With him, it makes it easier."

Smith said they told him he could train his dog in a special events area of the park, but he said they told him he had to pay.

The park owner said the rule is the same for all dogs: they have to be off the leash.

According to the owner, when some dogs are on leashes and others aren’t, it could change dogs' behaviors toward one another.

The owner said she wasn’t there when the incident happened but said she wouldn’t charge Smith to use the special events part of the park if he made reservations in advance.

Smith said he won't visit the dog park again.

“I'm outraged (that) that's the way, not only they want to treat a veteran, but that’s the way they want to treat anybody else who has a service dog,” Smith said.

Smith, who said he’s been to the dog park before with his other dogs and was able to have them on the leash, said he canceled his membership at Dog Wood Park after the incident.