Blind man told to leave store because of service dog
ATHENS, GA (CBS46) -
Michael Barnes has been completely blind since 2008, and relies heavily on his guide dog, named Doc, to get around Athens.
"Doc means a lot to me," Barnes said. "Doc is not just a service animal. He's my best friend, he's my companion. When I'm out walking down the street, or when I'm walking through a store, Doc is my eyes. I tell him the direction, and he goes."
Barnes said that he and a friend, Joseph Weaver, who are both blind and have service dogs, headed to a convenience store called Quick Pantry to get a snack on July 13th. It's a store that Barnes said he's brought Doc into many times before.
"The manager rudely comes up to us and starts yelling, ‘No dogs in here, no dogs near food,'" Barnes said. "We actually pulled out the Georgia guide dog law to show him that these are service dogs, and that we have a right to come in the store."
Barnes and Weaver called police on the store clerk named Hiteshkumar Patel, but Patel still wouldn't let the dogs into the store.
"All we want is the guy to allow us to come in, and to purchase our items. That's all we wanted to do was go in, shop and leave," Barnes said.
CBS Atlanta went to Quick Pantry on Thursday and spoke with owner Pete Patel, who said that he has since clarified to employees that service dogs are allowed inside the store.
"On behalf of him and me, we didn't know it was legal, that you can let them in," Pete Patel said. "The last time, one time before they came in, that dog actually pissed in the aisle, that is the reason we said no."
Athens-Clarke County Police said that Barnes, Weaver and Hiteshkumar Patel are all expected to attend a pre-warrant hearing in magistrate court sometime in August, where a judge will decide whether or not the store clerk will be charged.
Even though Pete Patel said the men are allowed back into his store with service dogs, Barnes said he still wants to press charges.
"Being a blind individual is very difficult sometimes, and that is why we want to stand up for our rights as citizens of this wonderful country, and as Americans with disabilities, to show people that you cannot do this." Barnes said. "This is something that you cannot do. If you're going to run a business, you should abide by the law."
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