Service dog denied entry into Cumberland County Food Lion

Lacy the Jack Russell Terrier/Poodle mix is Stowe's service dog
September 12, 2013 4:02:08 PM PDT
A Cumberland County woman is upset after a local grocery store would not allow her service dog inside the store.

Everywhere Darlene Stowe goes, Lacy goes with her. Stowe says the Jack Russell Terrier/Poodle Mix is for emotional support, but the grocery store wouldn't budge.

"Lacy has been going to church ever since she was a puppy. I set her up on the pew," Stowe said.

Stowe says she doesn't just want her dog with her, she needs her.

"I have mental issues and she helps keeps me calm and not really get irate," Stowe said.

Stowe just moved to Cumberland County from California. She says her psychiatrist there recommended she get a service companion.

"I would stay in the house and not come out but by getting a dog it makes you come outside and it brought me back to life," Stowe said.

Earlier this week, Stowe said three employees from her local Food Lion hassled her about Lacy.

"The manager came to me and said, 'what does she do for you?'  I said 'she's a service dog to me; mentally she helps keep me balanced.' She said they only allow seeing eye dogs. I say a service dog is a service dog how can you discriminate?" said Stowe.

The American with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability - physical or psychiatric. It also says the animal's presence and emotional support or companionship do not constitute work or tasks.

"The bronze tag here says she's a service dog. Because people didn't recognize the bronze tag, I went on a fixed budget and got her a service vest," Stowe said.

A public entity cannot ask for proof a dog is a service animal, and no one at the Cumberland County Food Lion did. But Stowe will be glad to tell anyone.

"This dog has just as much right to be in there as I do because she's been trained to go out in public and not mess with things," said Stowe.

ABC11 reached out to Food Lion's corporate office. They said they are sorry this incident happened, but Lacy's service vest was not immediately visible. Once they realized she was a service dog, they let Stowe continue shopping. Food Lion said they also want to reach out to Stowe personally.

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