Winchester is the name of retired United States Army Sergeant John Williams’ service dog. He’s a highly-intelligent, loving animal trained to perform the task of aiding his old Iraq War vet master in his struggle with a debilitating injury he developed while earning a Bronze Star with valor in the Middle East.
In a way, he’s like a walking, barking cane.
“I’ll push off him, he knows that whenever I call him over to me like that, he’ll come over and get parallel to me,” Williams told WFIE.
Recently however, the canine was seen as nothing but a nuisance, and somehow became the sole reason for Williams’ ejection from a local gun show near his home in Kentucky.
According to the vet, the owner of the event was allergic to dogs and didn’t want to get ill.
Then, Williams said, the man threatened to sue him.
The president of the group that set him up with Winchester, Michael Barrentine (of Soldier Dogs for Independence) was successfully reached for comment on the whole disappointing incident.
“There’s so much irony,” he said. “You have a 21-year veteran … that’s disabled due to his military service that’s getting kicked out of the armory he spent most of his time in, because he was in the armed forces.”
After leaving, the vet stayed outside in the cold until local authorities arrived.
Despite both Williams and his girlfriend citing rights clearly listed under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) that prohibit such egregious action due to allergies or fear of dogs*, the rankled owner didn’t budge.
“[That law] doesn’t apply because he’s not setting up at my gun show because we don’t allow dogs in my gun show,” said Thomas Allman.
“It’s like telling someone that has a wheelchair, hey you can let someone into my facility, but leave your wheelchair out at the door, these are medical tools,” Barrentine told the reporter.
Williams is still weighing whether or not he’ll press charges.
“One of our advocates is the Indiana Bar Association, so the legal consideration is definitely there, and we’re leaning that way,” he told Task & Purpose. “The absolute first concern is gonna be ensuring that all of this gentleman’s events that are held in armories are in compliance.”
* – The portion of the law that pertains, via the Department of Justice: “Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.”