Disabled veteran says video of incident with man & service dog brought back ill memories

Since we aired a story from central Florida about a veteran with a service dog being denied service, people across the state have contacted our newsroom to express their disgust in how that man was treated and to share similar stories.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Shock and outrage has been expressed by many after watching a video of an Army veteran who was denied service at a Florida bar with his service dog by his side.

Sandy Iski is a disabled veteran who lost her hearing while serving in the Navy. She now relies on her service dog Magic when she goes out in public.

Iski says when she saw the video of Army veteran Stephen Harmon and his service dog being denied service, it brought back memories of confrontations inside restaurants.

“It happened twice,” Iski said. "And they wanted to put me in a corner, and I said, “I’m already in a corner. What corner you going to put me in?”

Iski joined Florida Service Dogs, a nonprofit organization in Jacksonville that trains and places service dogs with disabled people.

Carol Christopherson runs the organization and understands why so many people were upset about how Harmon was treated in the video.

“I’ve been doing this for 22-years because I got denied access in December of ’93 and it still exists to this day because people are uneducated," Christopherson said.

After the recent video circulated, the co-owner of the bar that denied service to Harmon apologized and said his employees need training on how to differentiate pets from service dogs.

As for Iski, she says every time she’s told that she can’t come into a business with her dog, she feels like an outcast.

“It gets scary, along with feeling like I’m nobody," she said.

According to federal law, if a disabled person with a service dog enters a businesses that services the public, that business must allow the service dog to accompany its disabled handler. There are also questions businesses can ask if they think the animal is pet and not a service dog.

“The first one they can ask us is: Is that a service animal required because of our disability?" Christopherson said.

If the disabled person answers yes and that person is not in a wheelchair or visibly disabled, the business can then ask what task the dog has been trained to do to aid the disabled person. The dog, however, is not required to perform a task to prove it’s a service animal.

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