MOCKSVILLE, N.C. -- Joshua Schutt served in the U.S. Army as a specialist from 2001 to 2004. On Aug. 1, 2003, he was injured; leading to him being medically discharged.
Since, he has been dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. For years, he battled the disorder with the help of fellow humans. But, it wasn’t until about three years ago, when he got the help he really needed.
“He’s just the best thing that ever happened for me,” Schutt said.
Joshua got a service dog, a now 4-year-old German Shepherd, appropriately named “Hero.”
“He helps me with remembering my meds, waking me up from nightmares,” Schutt said. “He helps me go out in society. If I didn’t have him, I would be a hermit pretty much. I wouldn’t leave my house.”
Last Thursday, the pair did just that -- left the house -- and headed to the Dollar Tree in Mocksville. They picked up the items they needed and went to pay, when Joshua says an employee approached them.
“He came up to me and confronted me and said, ‘You can’t have that dog in here,’” Schutt recalled.
Schutt says he informed the employee that Hero is his service dog.
“He says I want to see his papers,” Schutt said.
Which, under Americans with Disabilities Act conditions, the employee was not allowed to do.
“He refused to accept that and said, ‘I know the difference between a service dog and a comfort dog, and that’s a comfort dog,’” Schutt told FOX8.
Schutt says, after telling the cashier to stop checking him out, the employee said, “‘If you don’t leave right now, I’m calling the cops,’ and then he proceeded to call the cops on me.”
“The cop told me, they don’t want you in there, just don’t go back in there, go somewhere else and buy your stuff.”
Schutt says the incident “makes me feel unappreciated. It makes me wonder why I served.”
Dollar Tree sent FOX8 a statement saying:
“Please know Dollar Tree is committed to allowing customers to bring their service animals to all areas of the store where customers are normally permitted.
"Please know we are in the process of reinforcing our policy with our associates, and we appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention.”
“PTSD is an invisible wound that 22 veterans a day take their lives from it,” Schutt said. “It’s just wrong. Why put veterans through more pain than we’ve already gone through?”
The Americans with Disabilities Act says:
Titles II and III of the ADA makes it clear that service animals are allowed in public facilities and accommodations. A service animal must be allowed to accompany the handler to any place in the building or facility where members of the public, program participants, customers, or clients are allowed. Even if the business or public program has a “no pets” policy, it may not deny entry to a person with a service animal. Service animals are not pets. So, although a “no pets” policy is perfectly legal, it does not allow a business to exclude service animals.
When a person with a service animal enters a public facility or place of public accommodation, the person cannot be asked about the nature or extent of his disability. Only two questions may be asked:
1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
These questions should not be asked, however, if the animal’s service tasks are obvious. For example, the questions may not be asked if the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person’s wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability.
A public accommodation or facility is not allowed to ask for documentation or proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Local laws that prohibit specific breeds of dogs do not apply to service animals.
A place of public accommodation or public entity may not ask an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees. Entities cannot require anything of people with service animals that they do not require of individuals in general, with or without pets. If a public accommodation normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.