I had my day in court. Well, at least I went to court for a status conference with the assistant district attorney, the man I’d had cited for refusing me and my dog entry into his restaurant and his attorney.
Over the previous months the assistant district attorney and I had had conversations about what I wanted to achieve through the legal process. I emphasized that I was not trying to be vindictive and did not want the court to take action that was so punitive that the man and his family would suffer: no jail time, no maximum fines. Instead, I wanted to make sure the man learned his lesson and understood what the law said about service dogs being allowed in public places. Perhaps, I suggested, he could perform community service with people who have disabilities or with dogs.
A friend accompanied me to court. We waited in the hallway until we were allowed into the courtroom and during that time the man’s attorney approached me. He introduced himself and assured me the man was truly sorry for his ignorance and his conduct. He presented me with a copy of a letter of apology (copies were also available for the assistant district attorney and the judge) and told me the man is a good man, a family man.
Once in court we waited while a number of people appeared before the judge, each to have a new court date scheduled. Then there was a lull and the assistant district attorney ushered us back out into the hallway. He and I broke away from the man and his attorney. We came to the conclusion that with 18-hour work days seven days a week it was impossible for the man to perform community service. Hey, I am a reasonable person. Instead I requested that he donate money to the organization from which I received my two service dogs. The man and his attorney quickly agreed. He also informed me that new employee training now included information about service dogs and literature from the Department of Justice was on hand at the front of his restaurant in case there was ever a question. Once again he apologized. Case closed and there will be no trial.
I consider this a win. No, I did not receive money for damages. No, he was not flogged in the town square. However, he learned from the incident. He learned he was wrong. He learned about service dogs and their right to public access. He learned that people who work with service dogs can be tough and formidable. He learned we are not to be trifled with. I doubt he will treat another person with a disability or with a service dog so dismissively again.