Military vet sues wig shop alleging discrimination related to her service dog

DENVER -- A military veteran who suffers from PTSD says she was thrown out of an Aurora wig shop because of her service dog.

Michelle McHenry-Edrington, 59, has now filed a federal complaint against Gigi’s Wig & Beauty Supply, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.

Click this link to view ADA service animal rules: https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

McHenry-Edrington told Denver7 that she went shopping at Gigi’s on March 3. Edgar, her Black Lab/Husky mix accompanied her to the store at 6th and Peoria.

“I was inside for about ten minutes and a woman asked if he was a service dog. I told her he was,” she said. “She asked where’s his vest?”

McHenry-Edrington said she explained that Edgar didn’t need one.

“All of a sudden, a man starts screaming at me about my dog,” she said. “He didn’t like dogs and didn’t want dogs in his store.”

McHenry-Edrington says she tried to explain that he was a service dog and that she had a right to have him with her in the store.

She said she even explained that he could look up the ADA rules online.

“He said he didn’t care about the law,” she said. “I asked him, ‘so are you telling me to get out and not buy this stuff that I have?’ And he said, ‘get out.’”

The plaintiff told Denver7 that she went out to her car and began to experience an anxiety attack.

The Englewood woman said she got Edgar three years ago and that he was a rescue dog.

She said he’s been trained as a service dog.

“When you suffer from depression and PTSD, sometimes you don’t want to do anything. But if you have your service dog, you’re going to take care of him, which helps to take care of you.”

No vest needed

Kevin Williams, the legal program director at the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition, says service dogs don’t need to wear a vest or anything else.

“The Department of Justice has made very clear that you don’t need any special markings,” he said.

Williams said if a service dog accompanies an individual into a store, the operator can only ask two questions:

  • Is that a service animal?
  • What service does the animal provide for you?

Williams also said that store owners must allow service dogs unless the animal is bothering other customers.

“If that is happening,” he said, “the owner has the absolute right to ask the individual with the disability to remove the service dog from the premises.”

Williams said that if that happens, “the individual is still allowed to continue shopping in the store.”

Lawsuit seeks court order

Williams said the plaintiff’s lawsuit seeks a court order forcing the owner to allow service animals, and to put a plan in place to educate employees about the law regarding service animals.

He also said it also seeks monetary damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Reaction to lawsuit

Store owner Taek J. Yi said his main concern was that the dog not alarm other shoppers. He said he didn’t know at the time that a vest wasn’t needed.

Yi declined further comment on the advice of his attorney.

Williams said his client is hopeful that Gigi’s will settle before the case goes to trial.

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