Hansville man says service animal denied entry to Poulsbo restaurant

WARNING: A video in this story contains language that may not be suitable for everyone.

A Hansville man says he will be pursuing legal action against Poulsbo Woodfired Pizza for discrimination after a co-owner of the restaurant said he could not dine indoors with his service dog.

On October 18, Antonio Fett began taking a video of an argument between himself and restaurant staff.

“I went in there to have a dinner date with my wife and was discriminated against. And because people don’t always believe it, I began recording it to gather evidence,” Fett said.

Video used with permission from Antonio Fett

In the video, Melissa Byrd — co-owner of Poulsbo Woodfired Pizza — asks Fett to sit outside with his dog. Fett refuses, stating repeatedly that it is his legal right to sit indoors with his service dog.

When asked what service the dog provides, Fett informed the owner that his dog, Leopold, is a medical alert, mobility and guide dog.

According to Fett, Leopold is a highly trained service animal capable of notifying him when he is about to experience a debilitating migraine. Fett explained that because his condition causes him to also lose visual acuity and depth perception, Leopold also serves as a guide.

“If the dog’s with you, it can guide you out the door and it can give you medical alert and mobility right out there, too,” Byrd says in the video. “I know you’re taking a stand and that’s great and hoorah for you.”

“It’s my civil rights ma’am,” Fett replies.

“Awesome. It’s my right to not have a dog in my restaurant,” Byrd responds.

Under RCW 49.60.218, it is illegal for a business to prevent entry by a disabled individual on the basis that they are accompanied by a service animal.

Fett said during most of the interaction, his wife — whom he says suffers from anxiety — waited outside after stepping out to avoid a panic attack during the argument.

Fett returned the following day with a letter calling for a refund for the cost of his meal, totaling $33.06; a written apology with an admission of wrongdoing; installation of a 12-inch by 12-inch sign stating “No pets allowed, Service Animals are welcome;” and a guarantee that all staff will comply with all local, state and federal laws regarding service animals and disabled individuals. In the letter, Fett stated that the owners had until Oct. 25 to comply or he would move forward with legal action. Fett signed the letter as Antonio Fajardo which he says is his legal name, although he is in the process of changing it to Fett.

Fett said he has yet to hear from the restaurant and will be moving forward with legal action.

In response to the incident, Fett said he is organizing a Sit Out for Civil Rights demonstration outside Poulsbo Woodfired Pizza, on Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. The demonstration will see participants sitting in solidarity of disabled individuals and their service animals. According to a Facebook page for the event, at 7 p.m. the demonstration will move to Poulsbo City Hall to request that the city council “pass legislation that states that denying or discriminating against a Service Dog team after being informed it is illegal to do so would be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

The conflict between Fett and Poulsbo Woodfired Pizza has prompted Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson to weigh in as well.

“No service dog or their handler should be denied admittance to a business. I would encourage all businesses to understand their rights and obligations,” Erickson said, suggesting business owners refer to the Washington State Human Rights Commission’s Guide to Service Animals and the Washington State Law Against Discrimination.

Byrd responded to a request for an interview with the following statement:

“We are in full support of the disabled community and feel that it is unfortunate that the situation has been misconstrued,” Byrd said.

—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at ntwietmeyer@soundpublishing.com

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