Military Veteran Claims NJ Wawa Restricted Him From Bringing Service Dog Inside
By Diana Rocco
MILLVILLE, N.J. (CBS) – Thirty-three-year old Patrick Stark goes everywhere with his medical dog, Copenhagen.
“Rarely do I get emotional at all, but this was a really sad experience for me,” Stark said outside his Vine Street home in Millville Tuesday.
The military veteran has suffered seizures since sustaining a brain injury when he was mugged three years ago in Seattle, Washington, where he just moved from a few months ago.
He’s had Copenhagen every since. The dog alerts him when the seizures are coming, enabling him to avoid them, which has saved his life.
“At this point, I have so much confidence in him. I would find it impossible to get along without him.”
Two weeks ago, Stark was in the Main Street Wawa around the corner from his home. He says the employees in the store started questioning him about the dog. They didn’t think Copenhagen was leashed properly, and weren’t sure he was a service dog.
“They were saying there’s nothing wrong with you. He’s not a seeing eye dog. Really ignorant things.”
Stark says he’s been in the store numerous times before, and had made them aware of his disability, but he didn’t recognize any of the employees working that night.
“I tried to reassure them it was service dog and the customers joined in with the yelling. Then I asked who was in charge and I would show them all the paper work she would want.”
Stark says he showed the manager his papers but still, he was asked to leave and the police were called.
In a statement Wawa says, “We apologize for any inconvenience or issues we caused Mr. Stark. Qualified service dogs are permitted in all Wawa stores. Because we are a food establishment we have to comply with strict Board of Health regulations which do not permit pets in our stores, but of course qualified service animals are permitted and welcome.”
Stark does not feel he was offered a real apology and says not only will he not be back, but he’s now considering legal action.
Wawa says they are reemphasizing protocol related to service animals with the team at the Millville store.