Moose Country Accused of Violating State Service Dog Laws
A volunteer trainer of service dogs says he was denied access to the restaurant's upstairs area, but does not plan to pursue charges.
Mendota Heights Police have no plans to charge a Mendota Heights restaurant after a volunteer trainer of service dogs said he was denied access to the upstairs area of Moose Country Whiskey and Food.
Nathan Points, a service dog trainer who has logged more than 2,000 volunteer hours training service animals, said last week that he was denied access with a service dog to Moose Country on Feb. 23. He had come there before with animals and did not expect any trouble, but he said that Moose Country’s management would not allow him upstairs to play pool.
An employee “was concerned that the dogs would be stepped on, but I explained to him that the dogs know how to walk right beside me or behind—whatever my command is—and that we just wanted to go upstairs,” Points said.
“Any person training a dog to be a service dog shall have the right to be accompanied by a service dog in [a] hotel, restaurant, public conveyance, or other public place,” according to Minnesota state statutes 256C.02 and 363A.19.
A Minnesota Disability Law Center fact sheet states that service dogs are allowed anywhere that they would not “fundamentally alter” the activities and that “allowing a service dog in a restaurant would not ‘fundamentally alter’ the restaurant business.”
Mendota Heights Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener, whose jurisdiction includes Lilydale, said citizens who believe a business is in violation of the laws relating to service dogs should notify the police department. But he said reported violations are rare.
"We’ve received no complaints of service dog violations, and I’ve been a police officer coming up on 30 years, and I’ve never received a complaint of a service dog violation," he said.
A Moose Country employee who declined to be identified did acknowledge the incident, but also said they have traditionally allowed service dogs in most parts of the restaurant.
He said management was unaware of the state statutes regarding service animals and said the incident was a misunderstanding. He said in the past they have asked that dogs in training stay confined to the dining area.
Under state law, the violation is a misdemeanor.
Points, the service dog trainer, said his main goal was to raise awareness about the laws relating to service dogs, and did not intend to pursue legal action.
“I bring service dogs in every type of place and business to let the dogs get used to of the environment,” he said.
He said he’s taken dogs to restaurants, on the light rail and to multiple Twins games.
“These dogs are well trained and know how to behave,” he said.
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