The Holiday Bar holds service dog training session for local businesses

The Holiday Bar hosted a training session about service dogs.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - The Holiday Bar in Grand Rapids hosted a service dog training session for local business owners Saturday. 

"We thought they might be interested in hosting us because of what happened, and they were," said Jenn Gavin, owner and head trainer at A Pleasant Dog in Grand Rapids. 

The bar and restaurant refused to serve veteran Jerome Smith, and his service dog, JoJo, on Friday, Nov. 10. The Holiday Bar manager said they were kicked out to keep JoJo safe, but apologized for "disrespectful and unprofessional" actions. The business then donated more than $2,000 to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. 

Gavin, along with local attorney Nicholas Vander Veen, spoke to a small crowd about what business owners can and cannot do when people come into their establishments with service dogs.

"You can ask two questions: is that a service dog trained to mitigate your disability?" Gavin said. "What is it trained to do? You can't ask for certification. You can't ask why it's not wearing a vest."

On Jan. 4, a Kent County prosecutor said The Holiday Bar manager would not be charged because JoJo was not wearing a leash when the incident occurred. 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals must be "harnessed, leashed or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal's work or the individual's disability prevents using these devices."

JoJo served as Smith's service dog for post traumatic stress disorder and retrieval of objects. Smith, citing the law, said JoJo didn't wear a leash because it interfered with retrieval. 

Business owners can only ask a person with a disability to remove the service animal if it's out of control of the owner or if the animal isn't housebroken, according to the law. 

This training was important to clarify the laws, said Sharon Reurink, who owns the Chuckwagon on Mackinac Island. 

"We didn't know [who] we dare ask to leave," Reurink said. "We needed to clarify things, so we know what we're supposed to do. We don't want to get in trouble with the health department either."

It's really tough to navigate the state of the law, Gavin said. 

"I'm really hopeful that things like this, and we'll hope to do it again, will help business owners feel confident in their rights and in the rights of service dog owners because it's really so tough to understand," she said. 

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