• Stephen Warneke

Caller Says Service Dog Denied Entry to Local Brewery in Wilton Manors


Charles, who says he suffers from PTSD, and his wife Renee arrived at Holy Mackerel, a relatively new BBQ and brewery joint in Wilton Manors, for their wedding anniversary. Upon entering the establishment, it was reported to us that Manager Joe said the couple was not allowed inside with the service dog because as a brewery they didn't have to abide by ADA guidelines. They had to either eat outside or take their business elsewhere, which they did, posting a review on Google and NextDoor of their experience.


Captain Kelley investigated and discovered that there were not one, but two signs in front of the building of Holy Mackerel, stating they allow service dogs.

When Kelley called to speak to a manager about the story, Holy Mackerel said we had to talk to Will—who never called us back. But being familiar with the story and the review posted online, they did say they absolutely do accept service dogs at Holy Mackerel.


What was really interesting about this story is how controversial Charles and Renee's review was on NextDoor— Some neighbors apologized and supported Charles, but most tried to tear the story apart, saying it must not have been a real service dog, or that Charles and Renee must have not had the appropriate paperwork. Many asked intrusive, personal questions, like what exactly Charles' disability was and why he had it.


So, what are the REAL LAWS regarding service animals and businesses?


To get to the bottom of the online debate regarding the rules and laws surrounding service animals here in Florida, Steve sought the expertise of ADA lawyer, Arturo L. Arca, a partner at Trembly Law Firm. Steve and Arturo were able to provide Charles and his wife as well as their online following Nextdoor and our listeners with some much-needed clarity:


1. What's the distinction between service animals and emotional support animals?


  • Service Animal is a dog that has been trained to do work or perform a task for people with disabilities.  They are working animals; not pets.  The work or task the dog performs must be directly related to the person’s disability. (Also, includes miniature horses!)

  • Under the ADA, dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals.


2. With regard to service animals, can they be denied entry into any or certain businesses? And if so, what are the rules around that?


  • Under the ADA, state and local governments, businesses and not profit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is allowed to go.

  • However, the dog must be under the control of the handler and must be harnessed, leashed or tethered, unless the individual’s disability prevents using these devices or these devices interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of tasks. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

  • The person and service animal cannot be asked to leave unless the dog is out of control and the handler is unable to control it, the dog is not potty trained, is aggressive, or otherwise posing a threat to human health and safety.

  • If the dog must be removed for a legitimate reason, the establishment must permit the handler to obtain the services or goods they need without the animal's presence.

  • The only questions that may be asked regarding the service animal are: Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability; and what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.

  • Nobody is allowed to ask what the handler's disability is, or ask for any type of identification or certification documents for the dog or medical documentation from the handler. Currently, it's an HONOR SYSTEM.

  • Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons to deny access or refuse service and the disable person cannot be isolated or otherwise treated differently than other patrons.


3. Since this falls under ADA, are there differences between states or is this a national policy?


  • The FHA, Air Carrier Access Act, state and local laws may have a broader definition of the definition of service animal or assistance animal.


4. What is someone's recourse if they've been denied entry?


  • File a Complaint with the State Attorney’s Office or the Department of Justice at ada.gov.

  • File a civil declaratory action.


5. What should someone do at the moment they're being denied entry to an establishment if they have a legitimate service animal?


  • Document as much of the incident as possible (obtain names and contact information).

  • Contact the policy to obtain an incident report.

  • Contact a lawyer to send a demand to preserve all surveillance footage.

The Steve Warneke Show is LIVE SATURDAYS at 10AM EST to 850 WFTL on your South Florida AM dial or you can stream live during the show at www.850wftl.com.


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