By Jeff Todd
LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – A Loveland woman says she was wrongfully asked for proof of her service animal at a restaurant.
“When something like this happens it makes me feel lesser in my community,” said Savanah Overtruf.
Overtruf was attending a pho restaurant with her mother, a place they’d been almost weekly, especially over the past three years since Overtruf got her service dog Liea.
“I have her mostly for seizures. She’s a seizure alert dog. She tries to alert beforehand. It saved my life multiple times. Without her I don’t exactly know where I’d be at this point,” Overtruf said.
She’s been diagnosed with epilepsy, Tourette syndrome, migraines, schizophrenia, ADHD, and depression.
It was Tuesday night, during a snow storm, when Overtruf and her mother went back to their familiar restaurant and they were shocked when the owner made a request.
“I thought it was probably a misunderstanding. He said, ‘I need the licensing for the dog.’ ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘No, no, no, I need the card,’” Overtruf told CBS4’s Jeff Todd.
“I told the customer I can service you today but next time please bring the proof you are a service dog,” said Khai Tran, the restaurant’s owner. “We’re happy people have a service dog to come in but they have to give me the proof.”
Tran says he’s concerned about liability from people entering the restaurant with dogs that aren’t service or therapy dogs.
Disability law experts say a request for proof is against both the Americans With Disabilities Act and Colorado Anti-Discrimination laws.
Misunderstanding the law is common for both service animal owners and business owners, but according to the Disability Law Colorado, “Restaurants may ask only two questions when a person enters the restaurant with a service animal: 1) ‘Is the animal required because of your disability?’ and 2) ‘What task does it perform?’ These are the only questions that may be asked regarding the person’s disability and their need for the animal.”
“Any sort of medical device is allowed in any restaurant. Your dog is just connected to you … it’s your accessory, your helpline for your disabilities,” Overtruf said.
Overtruf is also the reigning Colorado Miss Amazing, a pageant that empowers women with disabilities and she says she wants to use her position to advocate for others.
“It’s very important to me, not just that I can go to the restaurant, but anyone who has a need,” Overtruf said. “I would love to go back. I just want the education to be there I want them to know this is not correct.”
Disability Law Colorado has a resource for restaurants and service animal owners to know the law.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.