Veteran's service dog controversy at East Texas restaurant highlights new Texas law
POSTED: Friday, December 13, 2013 - 12:15am
UPDATED: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 1:00pm
Center, TX (KETK) — A veteran and his wife are upset by the way they say they were treated at a restaurant in Center when they brought their service dog inside the building, and was questioned by the staff.
In late October, Mike and Brenda Cowden went to eat at T/R's Steaks and More, bringing along Mike's service dog.
"They were told by the staff as well as the owner of the business that they had to leave and were not allowed to bring Mike's service dog into restaurant," said the Cowden's attorney Joshua Benn.
"It is a situation where the young lady was trying to do her job and keep with the health laws of the state," said restaurant owner Tommy Specter.
Specter has owned this restaurant for more than twenty years. he says the couple was was treated respectfully.
"You can ask if it is a service dog and ask what the service dog does, she felt like we has violated that law and was upset and wanted us to be fined."
This lead to Brenda Cowden calling the police, before she and her husband were allowed to sit down and eat once Specter said, he felt the situation had been resolved.
Louis McGinty is a local veteran and was eating at the restaurant that day.
"I think the establishment, the people here were questioning her but it was done in a polite manner," said McGinty, who supports the Specter's position on the issue.
"The people finished their meal they left when they wanted to they left a tip for the waitress they were not made to leave the restaurant or asked to leave the restaurant," said Specter.
But the Cowden's did hire a lawyer, and are now looking to find a way to resolve this alleged discrimination, possibly through donation.
"To benefit service dogs to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project, something of that nature so we're hoping to work something out where maybe a donation can be made to one or both of of those charities," said Benn.
But Specter said he is already prepared to health local veteran organizations.
"We talked about either giving to patriot paws possibly the local VFW and American Legion," Specter said.
But among the support he has received, Specter says this situation has hurt his reputation amongst many in the area.
"Had some veterans call, tell us they'll never eat with us again, we've actually had one lady call and tell me that I was a Nazi."
But now both sides want this situation to be over, saying they are looking for a win-win scenario.
Mike Cowden's lawyer said his service dog also helps him with his hearing loss, which was impaired during Vietnam, so even though the PTSD portion of the bill has not gone into effect, he is still covered in public places by the current regulations.
But Specter told me Cowden's impairment was never the issue, he just wanted to make sure the dog was a service dog, and he says his restaurant is always welcoming to anyone who may be suffering from a disability.