WATCH ABOVE: The mother of a child with a disability claims her service dog was not welcome in a Toronto restaurant. The pizza chain involved in the alleged incident has a different version of events. Christina Stevens reports.
TORONTO — The mother of a child with disabilities has claimed her family was told they could not remain in a Toronto restaurant with their service dog.
Andrea Haefele’s six-year-old daughter Bella has physical and cognitive disabilities, including autism.
Bella’s service dog Kadence keeps her physically safe and helps with her emotional wellbeing.
Haefele said when they first arrived at the Pizza Pizza in Don Mills for dinner on Saturday, staff complimented Kadence and observed that she was a service dog.
She said the problem started once they sat down to eat.
“Within minutes the staff behind the counter told us there were no ‘pets’ allowed … And then asked us to leave,” Haefele said.
She said she offered to show them Kadence’s certification, but they declined.
So she said her husband took the dog outside, while the rest of the family finished their meal.
“We had customers who came up to us to apologize to our family,” Haefele said.
But Pizza Pizza had a different version of events.
“At no point did they ask Andrea or anyone to leave the store,” said Navid Manouchehri, District Sales Manager for Pizza Pizza.
He said staff assured him they only asked whether Kadence was a service dog.
Manouchehri said he couldn’t comment on a follow up conversation Haefele said she had with the manager of the store in an attempt to get an explanation.
Haefele claimed the manager walked away from the conversation.
“If that’s the case she needs to be retrained as a manager to control her employees,” said Manouchehri.
Pizza Pizza showed Global News security video of the family’s visit to the restaurant to back up the company’s version of events.
However, the video didn’t make the situation clear.
According to the district manager, Pizza Pizza’s employees are all trained on the rights of people with disabilities. Additionally, he said he would be reviewing the laws with them.
Meanwhile, Haefele said no one else should have to go through the situation her family did.
“I was very overwhelmed at the incident. I sat there crying and feeding the kids,” she said.
“From the email she sent, she mentioned she was in tears while feeding the kids,” said Manouchehri, overcome with emotion.
He also said that he wants to apologize, not just as a Pizza Pizza employee, but as a father.
Haefele said she is following up with formal complaints and speaking publicly for other families.
“I want to ensure this does not ever happen again.”