Army Veteran Mike Alcorn of Shamong, NJ was surprised last week when he and his wife, Meg, were turned away from the Fortune Cookie restaurant in Medford because of the restaurant's "no dogs" policy.
Alcorn, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and responded to the earthquake in Haiti, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Came back from Afghanistan hyper visional I mean I think everybody that goes to war deals with that and then they come back, you know, the constant looking making sure that everything’s OK and that nothing bad is going to happen ,” Alcorn said.
Luckily, now we have ways to help veterans cope with PSTD in their daily lives.
Atlas, an 18-month-old German Shepherd, is always by Alcorn's side.
He’s a service dog, meticulously trained at Semper Fido-- a dog training facility in Marlton, New Jersey, signified by the red vest he wears.
Atlas helps Alcorn stand up when his knees are weak from injuries, be the calming force in his life when anxiety from PSTD hits its peak, and among countless other duties, helps Alcorn when he is feeling overwhelmed in public.
But despite showing the service dog credentials at the restaurant, including his federal ID card and the ID card that lies inside Atlas’ vest which quotes the Americans with disabilities act that allows them to be in all public areas, Mike was asked to leave.
“I pulled my wallet out and I have these little cards, and he’s like, he didn’t even want to hear it, and he’s like ‘Step back, I have a customer’ and I was like ‘Wait a minute I’m not a customer?’ and he’s like ‘You can wait outside,” Alcorn said. “I was hurt, I was embarrassed, I was like you know, here I am just trying to make myself normal again, try to be normal again and go out.”
The couple has yet to receive an apology from the restaurant. But their main goal is to spread awareness and let everyone know that this happens regularly.
“Business owners, they need to be aware that there are laws that protect service animals and that they could potentially jeopardize their businesses in denying service,” Meg Alcorn said.
Now, Governor Christie actually signed what’s called Dusty’s Law in 2014 that states if anyone interferes with a service dogs duties that it could result in up to a $10,000 fine.
The Fortune Cookie restaurant said that they weren’t aware of this law, apologized, and even invited the Alcorn’s back in for dinner.