Service dog refused entry to Bradford restaurant

Bradford resident mystified after he and his service dog were denied entry to local restaurant

“All dogs are not allowed,” repeated Ganesh Ponniah, owner of the Bradford Golden Taste of Asia restaurant. while denying a local pastor and his service dog entry into his facility last week.

The two-year-old purebred Golden Doodle, Lily, is owned by Cory Kostyra, Acting Pastor at Bradford Community Church. Lily completed her training with the Citadel Canine Society, as a medical assistance dog in June 2020, in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and in accordance with Association standards. Canadian Assistance Dog Trainers.

Entering the restaurant last Wednesday, along with Lily and her friend Martin Lim, Kostyra was shocked when the owner told her that her service dog would not be allowed into the establishment.

“We tried to explain to him, but he just didn’t listen,” Kostyra said, adding that other customers within earshot of the disagreement also stepped in to help explain to the owner why the dog was allowed to go. enter.

Kostyra, Lim, and Lily left the scene as instructed by Ponniah and ended up having dinner on the street.

The incident at Golden Taste of Asia was immediately brought to the attention of the City of Bradford Accessibility Advisory Committee. Bradford today called the restaurant for a statement and spoke briefly to the staff, before the calls were abruptly dropped. It took three tries before Bradford today was able to speak directly with the owner.

“This is the first time this has happened. I didn’t know about it, but I kindly ask sorry for that, ”Ponniah said. “In my five years here, no one has ever been here with a dog, so I kindly ask, sorry.”

Lily’s certificate (which Kostyra carries with him at all times) requests that: “… individuals, business owners, facility managers and others, grant Lily and her manager, Mr. Cory Kostyra, the appropriate privileges and a reasonable degree of physical public access. “

“They need to train their employees and allow someone with a service dog on their premises,” says Kostyra. “If the dog is wearing a service vest, that is more than adequate proof, but we also have the papers.”

The AODA makes it clear:

“If a person with a disability is accompanied by a guide dog or other service animal, the supplier (owner) must ensure that the person is allowed to enter the premises with the animal and keep the animal. ‘animal with it, unless the animal is otherwise excluded by local law.

In the section “Staff training”, it is stated that “each supplier shall ensure that the following persons receive training on the provision of the supplier’s goods, services or facilities, as applicable, to persons with disabilities… ( including) each person who is an employee or volunteer of the Supplier ”, making owners responsible for reviewing with their staff the purpose of the Act and the requirements to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Sanctions are provided for in the event of non-compliance with the law. According to the AODA, if the incident is deemed “major” or if there is a repeat offense, a daily fine of up to $ 100,000 in the case of a corporation and $ 50,000 in the case of an individual or an unincorporated organization can be levied.

Ultimately, Kostyra said of the restaurant owner: “It is mandatory that he trains his staff (and himself) to understand accessibility standards. “

The Ontario government website notes that “one in seven people in Ontario has a disability” (approximately 2 million Ontarians). Over the next 20 years, as Ontario’s population ages, people with disabilities are expected to account for about 40 percent of Ontario’s total income, or $ 536 billion.

“People with disabilities are a growing market that businesses cannot afford to ignore,” the website says, under the headline “How to Make Customer Service Accessible.”

“Ontario has laws to ensure all Ontarians can access your organization’s goods, services or facilities. The law requires your organization to identify these barriers and remove them, in order to provide more accessible customer service to people with disabilities, ”notes the government site.

“This is an opportunity to educate businesses in our community about the AODA Act,” said Bradford West Gwillimbury Deputy Mayor James Leduc, chair of the BWG Accessibility Advisory Committee. “As you can see from section 80, this is something that businesses should be aware of, that assistance dogs are an important part of the needs of people with disabilities and that they should be allowed into any area. business to support the owner. “

Leduc adds, “I believe this is where we, as a municipality, can do better to educate business owners about their obligations to residents with disabilities. We are working on a strategy on how to educate business owners about the law and the roles and responsibilities of those owners. We have to be better. “

According to the law, there are different types of service animals, apart from guide dogs, which support people with different types of disabilities. The four most common disabilities that use a service animal are vision impairment or loss, epilepsy, autism, and anxiety disorders.

There is no restriction on the type of animal that may be used as a service animal, provided the animal is wearing a certified harness or vest to indicate this, or the person with a disability provides the appropriate documentation for ‘a regulated health professional.

According to Caleigh Clubine, community relations officer with the municipality, “The City was interested to learn that there may be a lack of awareness of the laws surrounding service dogs.

She noted, “Although this is an area of ​​provincial jurisdiction, the chair of the city’s accessibility advisory committee said he would encourage the committee to determine if there might be an opportunity. to help educate and inform business owners and the public. “

The Citadel Canine Society, where Lily was trained, maintains the highest standards in basic obedience and training for service animals. This is an RCAF registered charity that specifically trains medical assistance dogs for military veterans and first responders.

“As soon as you put on the vest, (Lily) knows she’s working,” Kostyra explains.

Lily’s training with Citadel is described as “intense” and includes bringing training assistance dogs into rooms filled with toys and treats where the animals are trained not to touch anything.

” It is really awesome. I would drop food on her head and she wouldn’t touch it, ”Kostyra says of the training. Citadel Canine also trains service animals in different environments, including hospitals and airplanes, where there are different sounds.

“The hardest part is making them ‘bomb proof’ against noise and outside distractions,” he adds, sharing that when he suffered a panic attack in a store, Lily proved her value.

“Lily once dragged me out of a Walmart,” Kostyra recalls. “I couldn’t move. I was in the middle of the aisle with my cart.

Although the owner of Golden Taste of Asia eventually offered Kostyra and her service dog Lily a free meal for supervision, Kostyra declined the offer, but he will not press charges.

“Service animals have a job to do, they are not pets,” he explains, adding that there is a difference between a highly trained service dog and a therapy dog. “If I had walked into this restaurant and had a stroke, someone should have come and picked me up.”

To learn more about the laws and regulations surrounding accessibility for Ontarians, click here. Business owners who want to make their services more accessible, please visit here.

About Jun Quentin

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