Updated: Jun 6, 2019
Today, while out running some errands, my Mum & I stopped by Home Depot. As it was nearing lunchtime, I decided to pop into the Subway attached to the Home Depot while my Mum was paying for the things she was picking up.
As I waited my turn, it was like any other day I go out. I had Paddington at my side(who according to a lot of people he is barely noticeable as he is so well behaved) I was attempting to be patient and just minding my own business.
As the man(who turned out to be the manager) came to the counter which I assumed was to take my order, he abruptly told me I cannot have an animal in the restaurant and that he will be fined for violating health code. I calmly explained that Paddington is a service dog and he is allowed to be with me and service animals are an exception to the health code he was talking about.
This explanation did not seem to appease the man; however he begrudgingly took my order. As he prepared my sub, he rudely said to me over the fridge, "If I get fined, I want your name so I can pass the $5000 fine onto you".. In that moment I stood there in shock that he actually said that! I pulled up the current laws(though few and not very strong in Ontario, they are very clear when it comes to where service animals can and cannot be- https://www.ontario.ca/page/accessibility-ontario-what-you-need-to-know#section-7 ) and not only read them aloud to him, but showed him so he could read them for himself. After this, I said to him, "me needing this dog for my disability is NO different than someone who is blind and requires a dog to guide them." He still wasn't getting that what he was trying to do to me was wrong and then said to me "I love my dog, but I don't bring it everywhere with me. You can't have a dog in here, don't come here again with a dog."
After leaving, I called Subway Corporate and filed a formal complaint about my experience. I was very thankful to get someone on the line who understood how wrong everything that had unfolded was. Turns out, the lady's mum had a service dog as well and she was shocked and disgusted with what had happened. She went on to explain that EVERYONE in their company receives training on accessibility which includes service animals. She also said that she is very happy I was brave enough to call, because if this was her Mum, she wouldn't have been able to stand up for herself and it would've bothered her for the whole week to come.
If having a service dog has taught me anything, it is taught me that I do not deserve to be treated as 'Less than' or as an inconvenience, how to stand up for myself, for others, my rights and the rights of others. This is not something I learnt how to do overnight, but I am grateful that I am capable of speaking up.. even if my voice shakes. Experiences like today thankfully don't happen too often to me, but are a reality when you rely on a service animal. They are also a stark reminder of why I am so zealous about advocacy and awareness when it comes to service animals and accessibility as well as a reminder that there is still a long way to go when it comes to these things!