Marine vet booted from Magazine Street shop because of service dog

Published: Aug. 1, 2016 at 1:30 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 1, 2016 at 1:58 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A Georgia man is filing a discrimination complaint against a local shop after he claimed the store manager kicked him out because of his service dog.

David Ballengee was in New Orleans for a wedding, his first trip to the Crescent City, and by his side "SD Ruger" his service dog he's had since last year.

Ballengee is a Marine veteran who spent four years in the Corps and left the service in 2009 after he suffered a traumatic brain injury in training. His injury led to PTSD and convulsive vomiting syndrome, which can cause internal bleeding, but since SD Ruger showed up his life has changed.

"Instead of me starting to go convulsive or starting to have a post traumatic issue, that could cause me more trouble, he'll tell me if my blood sugar is low, he'll say dad you need to eat, if I'm dehydrated, he'll say dude you need to drink some water," Ballengee explained.

For Ballengee SD Ruger is a lifesaver and he doesn't go anywhere without him, it's why he was strapped to his side when he entered Magazine Antique Mall on Magazine street Friday afternoon.

"The gentleman noticed my service animal and asked me for my paper work, his picture license, which is not something that exists," Ballengee said.

So he gave the manager information on the Americans with Disabilities Act and continued into the store.

"He said this is not the dog's license, I'm asking you to leave the store, I said sir you can't ask me to leave because of my service animal, you need to read the paper work. About that time I took my camera out," Ballengee said.

Ballengee began to film to incident on his phone, which he later posted on YouTube.

"The [manager] is kicking me out because I have a service animal with me, I've given him paper work and he's decided to kick me out anyway, there's the gentleman right there," Ballengee said in the video.

"He has no ID on the dog, that's all asked for, ID," the manager is heard saying on the video.

Ballengee continued to record but decided to leave the store anyway.

According to legal experts and service animal trainers like Jean Manino, what the manager did was illegal.

"You're allowed to ask is it service dog and what service does the dog provide," Manino said.

In fact the ADA's website clearly shows staff cannot ask about the person's disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

However, Manino admits the law could invite fakers.

"Oh it definitely can be abused, but for the people who do have the dogs for a reason, this is the type of thing that kind of happens," Manino said.

FOX 8 spoke with the man Ballengee caught on camera, today. He said he kicked Ballengee out because he turned his back on him, which he considered rude, and continued to cite the disabled clients he sells wares for and their rights compared to Ballengee's. He did admit he was wrong and wasn't aware of the law, but says from this point forward any service dog would have to wear booties in his shop because of the possibility of broken glass.

Ballengee said that new policy still violates the rights of service animal owners.

Now Ballengee's upset, after wearing a uniform to protect the very rights he's fighting for, he must continue wage the battle, even as a veteran.

"For him to want to basically shut those privileges down for me, it's knife in the back, it hurts, it hurts a lot," Ballengee said.

Ballengee said he's filing a discrimination complaint with the ADA on the Magazine Antique Mall.

The manager said he wanted to apologize to Ballengee, but insisted, in the future, service animals would be force to wait at the front of the store if they did not have booties.

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