BARTOW, Fla. - Iraq wounded veteran Anthony Smith doesn't leave home without Violet. Smith credits his service K-9 with giving him his life back.
Like many wounded warriors the most serious of Smith’s injuries can't be seen. Violet was on duty the day Anthony, his wife Heather and children went out for a family meal, a rare treat due to Smith’s PTSD.
The couple says the manager immediately told them the dog was not allowed inside and that they tried to explain Violet was a trained service dog. The Smith’s say they attempted to show the manager violet's tag inscribed with the ADA law regarding service dogs but the manager shooed it away and stated insurance would not allow dogs in the building.
K-9 Partners for Patriots in Brooksville trained Violet to sense adrenaline which spikes during a panic or anxiety attack. She knows what to do to distract and clam Smith when he gets anxious in public.
Ron Flaville, also wounded in Iraq, is the veterans’ liaison with the non-profit. He says it is not the first time he’s heard of veterans with invisible injuries and their service dogs being turned away from a business. He says part of the problem is people don’t understand many injuries are invisible.
Still Federal law is clear. Service dogs can go into any public place their handlers go.
We went to Mike's Drive In and Restaurant to speak with the owner. Rula Roussos admits to telling the Smiths dogs were not allowed. She pled ignorance to the law that protects service K-9s for people with psychological injuries as well as physical ones.
The restaurant apologized and invited the family and Violet in for a free dinner. The Smiths say they are not going back.
Meanwhile the state attorney's office is investigating the complaint for failure to accommodate the disabled.