Benjamin Wardrip has a unique bond with his service dog, Beau.
"He knows me better than my wife does," Wardrip laughed, patting Beau on the side.
Wardrip served in the U.S. Army during the war in Iraq.
He returned home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, causing panic attacks and tremors. He is now classified as disabled. Beau helps fend off the symptoms. "He is my battle buddy at all times," Wardrip said.
Until Wednesday night, their bond has never been tested.
"I went to go eat with my family at the Hong Mei Hibachi Grill and Buffet in Mooresville and was refused service from this restaurant," Wardrip told WBTV. "It was strictly because I had my service dog with me. I was completely baffled and that is the first time that has ever happened to me."
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, "privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.
The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed."
Aware of his rights, Wardrip and Beau attempted to get served again Thursday. This time, police officers followed them inside. While they spoke to the owner, fellow veterans Mike Melton and Darryel Connell offered moral support from the parking lot.
"We are here to support him, making sure that we can get this resolved, making sure the owner of the restaurant will let him have entrance," said Melton, who was awarded the purple heart in Vietnam.
Their support paid off. Just 20 minutes after entering, Wardrip was seated. Beau was at his side.
WBTV attempted to speak with the owner on-camera. He ordered us off the premises. Off camera, he said that he had bad experiences with services dogs in the past.
No criminal or civil charges were filed in this incident.
Wardrip said he is just happy to not be discriminated against.
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