Pierrefonds launches campaign to educate business owners about service dogs

A new West Island initiative aims to teach business owners about service dogs, following an incident in July, 2018 that saw a man and his dog get kicked out of a Pierrefonds Tim Hortons.

Craig Read is still furious about that day.

He says employees at the Tim Hortons at Pierrefonds and Jacques-Bizard boulevards told him he could not be there, because he was with his service dog.

“I went in to get a coffee and a bagel or muffin and I was told I wasn’t permitted, I had to leave,” Read told Global News on Tuesday.

Joey has been by his side since 2011 to help Read with post-traumatic stress disorder and agoraphobia.

“Every 90 seconds, he’s always looking at me to see how I’m doing,” Read explained.

Most of the time businesses don’t bat an eye, but on that day, Read got into a heated argument with Tim Hortons’ employees over Joey.

“I was rudely told to leave. I said he’s a service dog. He said, ‘We don’t care,” Read recounted, saying that he filmed the ensuing argument with his phone. Read says Tim Hortons never apologized to him, and he remains upset.

On Tuesday, however, he joined a campaign to turn what happened into something positive.

He’s joining forces with Pierrefonds Mayor Jim Beis and the organization that trained his dog, the Asista Foundation, to embark on an awareness campaign.

“Legislation permits folks that go through different mental health issues to bring their service dogs with them into businesses,” Beis told a press conference at Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough hall.

On Thursday, Beis, Read and the Asista Foundation will be touring Pierrefonds businesses to open their eyes to service dogs.

“It makes me go from not having a voice and no one caring to at least my municipality giving a damn,” Read said after the awareness campaign was announced.

Asista spokesman John Agionicolaitis said that if the dog has the right credentials, it should be allowed inside businesses.

“Does the dog have a vest? Is the dog supported by an organization? Does the dog have a card? Does the dog have papers?” he said.

At a Pierrefonds seafood restaurant Read frequents, they never gave his dog a second thought.

“It would almost be like denying service to someone with a wheelchair,” said Heba Abouselima of Le Canal Poissonerie.

Still, Asista regularly hears of service dogs being rejected.

“I think about once a month,” estimated Agionicolaitis.

Read feels that if business owners become aware of how helpful service dogs can be for those with mental health difficulties, they’ll open their doors.

“Not all wounds are visible,” Read said. “Mine are internal.”

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