A Massachusetts diner is facing widespread public backlash and calls for a boycott for refusing to serve to a veteran and his service dog.
Big I's, in Oxford, Mass., has been bombarded with angry phone calls, comments on online review sites and even arson threats in response to its treatment of James Glaser, an Iraq veteran, and his dog Jack.
Glaser, who says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and carries paperwork confirming Jack's status, said that he had just stepped in the restaurant for lunch Saturday when he heard someone say "get that F-ing fake service dog out of my restaurant." The owner of the eatery refused to let the dog stay, even after a call to police confirmed that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits businesses from denying entry to certified service dogs like Jack.
"Just the fact he did it in public, I never felt so belittled in my life," Glaser told NECN in an interview.
Big I's owner, Russel Ireland, stood by his decision earlier this week, though he acknowledged that he may have overreacted. He said he should have told Glaser he wouldn't allow the dog inside after an earlier visit in which Glaser upset him by feeding the dog off of a plate.
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"This is not a needs dog to me," Ireland said. "He did not come in with a harness. There's no muzzle on it."
Glaser's story sparked national interest after a Facebook post he wrote went viral, receiving more than 20,000 likes. Supporters responded by making profanity-laden calls to the eatery and posting Yelp reviews urging customers to dine elsewhere. They are now planning a weekend rally and a boycott.
“You got someone with a service dog,” Air Force veteran Ron McGrath, a Glaser supporter. “Legally, you should have accepted him and not made a big deal out of it. Now [Ireland] is being very belligerent about it so he gets what he deserves.”
Some local residents have defended Ireland, saying it was his call to make.
“I have a lot of respect for vets, but then again, the owner owns the place,” said Arnold Allaire, who supports the diner. “He has the right to say what goes.”
Katelyn Tivnan is a reporter for NECN.com.