Mother says family denied access because of son's service dog; Restaurant tells different story

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PITTSBURGH - A mother is furious after she said her family was told they couldn’t eat at a South Hills restaurant because of her son’s service dog.

Annahlese Elm said her son, Josh, suffers from a rare genetic disorder that requires a special diet and a 24-hour service dog to alert his nurse when his glucose levels are low.

“He needs to have cornstarch every three hours. If not, he’ll die,” Elm said.

Elm told Channel 11 News that Saga Hibachi is one of the restaurants her 5-year-old son can dine at without worrying. She said the Japanese style restaurant has always been accommodating to her family and their dog, Sonny.

“For us to be able to go out to eat, we have to have our dog. We can’t leave her home,” Elm said.

However, according to Elm, last week a new hostess turned them away.

“She said, ‘I’m sorry. I just can’t let you sit because of the dog,’” Elm said.

A manager with the restaurant said the Elms were never denied access, but it was suggested that they sit at a separate table because specialty food items can’t be prepared on a hibachi where shared meals are being served.

“He’s very upset. He doesn’t understand why they wouldn’t let him eat there,” Elm said.

Elm said her family was so embarrassed that they left and decided to eat somewhere else.

“I’m not looking to fight. I just want them to learn the law,” Elm said.

The American’s with Disabilities Act states, “Businesses that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises. Violators can be required to pay money damages and penalties.”