Veteran With Service Dog Turned Away From Houlihan’s–Restaurant Apologizes

An Army war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder was refused a table because he was accompanied by a service dog. The day before Memorial Day, ironically when we honor veterans, Garrett Loughran, 32, brought his five-year-old labradoodle named Hershey, who wore a red service dog vest to Houlihan’s restaurant. He was accompanied by his parents, thinking they would have a pleasant lunch, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Loughran’s mother, Laura Wills, indicated that the hostess and her manager questioned the need for a service dog and told them that they couldn’t bring the dog into the restaurant. They left and ate at a nearby restaurant that welcomed them, including Hershey.

Afterwards, Wills posted their experience to her Facebook page as well as that of Houlihan’s, and the message went viral. There are over 5,000 shares and almost as many “likes.” And many people’s messages indicate that they are angry at the manner in which Loughran was treated. For example, three representative people made the following comments.

“Houlihans just lost a lot of customers. How rude is that?!!! I’m never going there again….Very illegal…Boycott for sure! So sorry for their ignorance and thank your son for his service.”

But Houlihan’s didn’t just sit back and do nothing. The Vice President of Operations for Houlihan’s Restaurant Group, Amy Fasholt-Fisher, stated that she and her company were “mortified” to learn of how the veteran and his dog were treated. She said that the manager at the restaurant Loughran and family attempted to enter, who had worked for the company approximately two years, had been fired. Additionally, she said that the company was making a $2,000 donation to Pets for Vets. Loughran and his family suggested the donation be made to Pets for Vets to help cover the costs of training another service dog. Fasholt-Fisher stated the following, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“We are sincerely apologetic for the lack of respect and compassion that this veteran and his family experienced in our restaurant.”

She said that Houlihan’s company policy is to welcome service dogs. The company has almost 100 restaurants throughout the United States. The company also issued an official apology, according to Northwest Herald.

“Our former manager’s interaction with a veteran and his service dog yesterday lacked the respect, compassion and hospitality we expect all our employees to deliver with any and every guest walking through our doors. The poor reception given to this veteran caused him to leave and take his business elsewhere. We are not proud of such a low moment, and we’d like all of you to know this is not representative of the kind of company Houlihan’s is, or the values we have and share as its employees.”

Loughran stated that he held the rank of specialist and served as a tank mechanic for more than nine years on tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although Army officials confirmed that Loughran had been deployed in the Army, it could not provide specifics.

Wills said that Hershey helps her son cope with crowds and even awakens him when he has nightmares, and stated the following, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“He’s [Loughran’s] constantly on guard, constantly looking around, especially when a lot of people are around him. He is always looking for a threat. The dog calms him.”

Houlihan’s invited them back on Memorial Day, and they discussed how the company can do better. Management profusely apologized. Loughran indicated that he bought Hershey three years ago for about $1,000 from a service dog training facility in Colorado., and he noted the following, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“He [Hershey] helps keep me calm…alerts me when there is something wrong. [And after being turned away from the restaurant,] Hershey was just there to comfort and calm me down afterwards. I was rather upset.”

Loughran and Wills are pleased that, although they suffered through the bad experience, they raised a better awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and service dogs.

Another veteran was recently shown how much people value him. John Cruz is a homeless man in the beachside neighborhood of Kailua, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. He doesn’t ask for anything and instead helps others. He often watched over local residents, doled out advice, and even helped oversee whether young people were safe. Recently, he became ill and local residents saw to it that the Vietnam veteran received medical care, according to an article in the Inquisitr.

[Photo Courtesy Facebook]