Clinton man, service dog thrown out of Clearfield restaurant

Sep 7 2011 - 11:52pm

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ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Don Smith holds his service dog, Junior, on the porch at his home in Clinton on Wednesday. Smith says he was asked to leave the Star Cafe in Clinton because he had Junior with him, although he says he has eaten at the restaurant with his dog previously.
ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Don Smith shows off his service dog, Junior, in Clinton on Wednesday. Smith says he was asked to leave the Star Cafe in Clinton because he had Junior with him, although he says he has eaten at the restaurant with his dog before.
ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Don Smith holds his service dog, Junior, on the porch at his home in Clinton on Wednesday. Smith says he was asked to leave the Star Cafe in Clinton because he had Junior with him, although he says he has eaten at the restaurant with his dog previously.
ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Don Smith shows off his service dog, Junior, in Clinton on Wednesday. Smith says he was asked to leave the Star Cafe in Clinton because he had Junior with him, although he says he has eaten at the restaurant with his dog before.

CLINTON -- Don Smith says he cannot function in society without his dog.

His psychologist agrees, he said, which is why Smith registered his dog as a service dog in Davis County.

But when Smith recently was told he had to leave one of his favorite restaurants because of his dog, Smith felt humiliated.

"I rescued him when he was a puppy, and now he rewards me the rest of his life by helping me function in society," Smith said, holding back tears. "He's given back to me more than I could ever give to him."

Smith has an anxiety disorder. When his psychologist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City encouraged him to think about something that makes him happy whenever his anxiety attacks occur, Smith said he would think about his dog, Junior P. Smith.

The doctor thought that was such a good idea, Smith said, she helped him register Junior as a service animal so he could bring the dog with him everywhere he goes.

So Smith takes Junior, who wears a badge identifying him as a service animal, to the grocery store and to restaurants. Whenever he starts to feel anxious, he just reaches down and pets Junior, and that anxiety goes away.

"My wife, Tempie, always jokes that we have to take the dog everywhere," Smith said.

Smith and the Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix went to the Star Cafe in Clearfield to meet Smith's friend for breakfast Tuesday morning. Smith said he had been in the cafe several times before with his dog, but on Tuesday, it was different.

When Smith entered, the owner quickly approached him and told him he could not bring his dog inside the restaurant.

"I was upset, so I told him I'm allowed to have him with me under the Americans With Disabilities Act," Smith said. "He didn't care. He said, 'I want you and your dog to leave.' "

Smith said Junior was always on a leash and stayed under a table while in the restaurant.

The Americans With Disabilities Act classifies a service animal as "any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."

A disability, defined by the ADA, is "a mental or physical condition which substantially limits a major life activity such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working."

Litung Liu, the owner of Star Cafe, said he did not know if he was breaking the law by asking Smith to leave with his dog. The cafe owner just said allowing a dog in his restaurant does not make sense, especially when the dog annoys other customers.

"The first time he comes in, the dog just runs around and goes anywhere, even when I tell (Smith) not to allow it," Liu said.

"We are a restaurant, and people are eating here. If the dog is quiet, it's OK. If the dog goes around and plays around with other people, that is not OK."

Not wanting to leave, Smith called the police. When the Clearfield officer arrived, the officer told Smith that he had to leave.

Clearfield Police Assistant Chief Mike Stenquist confirmed that, according to the officer's report, the officer asked Smith to leave at the request of the owner.

"We'll have to review on our end (to see) if that was appropriate," Stenquist said.

Smith said, in the future, he will have to go to the places that accept Junior.

"I can't go back to a place where I've been humiliated," Smith said. "It was a good place, but the owner humiliated me so much in front of my friend."

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