WILMINGTON, NC - As we first told you last night at 11, a little girl and her mother were kicked out of the Western Wear store in Castle Hayne because they brought a service dog in with them. Today the mother told us she's decided to take legal action.
Some may think because Robert Bryant owns his store, he has every right to refuse service to whomever he chooses. Not so says the American with Disabilities Act. Now he could be looking at spending up to 20 days in jail.
Bryant is adamant about pets in his store, even service animals.
"I'm gonna treat everybody that walks in my door the same way," he told WWAY. "I asked the lady, I said 'Ma'am, there's a sign up that says no dogs allowed. No pets allowed.' That oughta be enough."
Problem is, that wasn't enough, because Ellie is a service dog and helps five-year-old Amanda Ivancevich navigate through life. Amanda had a stroke before she was born then had seizures, so doctors removed half of her brain to stop them. She also has cerebral palsy. But her mom Susan wants Amanda to live as much a normal life as she can with Ellie's help.
"She has a legal right to be in any business," Susan Ivancevich. "She's been in John Hopkins, the number one hospital in the world. She's been in dining establishments, she's been in grocery stores, she's been all over the place, and so she has that legal right and to not allow her to go in is discrimination against the disabled."
"The dog is, in a sense, an extension of the child," attorney Sue Rielly said. "He does things for her that she cannot do by herself."
Rielly is a former lawyer for the Department of Justice's Disability Rights Section. By federal law, service dogs are not pets. Any place open to the public like Bryant's Western Wear shop, must allow them in.
"In this case, most businesses don't allow animals in their stores," Rielly said, "but the law says make a reasonable modification to that policy. So people with disabilities, who use animals to help them see, or pick things up, or tell them they're going to have a seizure actually can come in and access your store."
Something Bryant apparently refused to do Monday because, he said, the dog smelled, and he didn't want dog hair on his merchandise.
"If she wanted to bring the child in here and shop, fine," Bryant said. "I have no problem with that, but she didn't have to have that dog with her. If you spill drinks on my clothes, I can't sell them. A dog brushes up against them, I can't sell them. I'm not gonna have it. As far as that dog walking in here to maintain that child's welfare, it doesn't."
There are only two instances when you can kick a service animal out of a public place: If it's acting up, or if it poses a threat to others around it.