Wherever 13-year-old Bryan Sinato goes, you’ll see a big, black dog named Saxon.
Officially, Saxon is his service dog. In reality, he is Sinato’s connection to the rest of the world. Sinato has cerebral palsy, is legally blind and autistic. Sinato’s mother said Saxon gives him the confidence to go to everyday places.
When they stopped at Judy’s Cuisine, a Chinese food restaurant in Richmond Hill for lunch, a friend went in first to explain that Saxon is a service dog. She came out and said that it was okay to go in, Lorena Sinato, Bryan’s mom, told Global News. But the reception was anything but warm.
“As soon as I went inside with Bryan and Saxon, this lady started telling me, ‘Go away, no dogs, no, no, no,’ and pushing us to the door,” Lorena said.
“It was really humiliating, frustrated. There were more people eating there and nobody cared, so I tried to show her the human rights law. I tried to show Saxon’s certificate card. She didn’t care, she just kept saying, ‘No, no, no,’ and pushing away.”
They left the restaurant. But they were still hungry, so they tried another restaurant in the same plaza. Things did not go any better at Beijing Restaurant.
“They saw the dog and they told us, “No, no, no, no, no,'” Lorena said.
“There was a language barrier, they didn’t understand. But they didn’t care.”
Service dogs must be accommodated in pretty much any space that is publicly accessible.
“The law is clear,” said Mikaila Greene, legal counsel with the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, an organization that provide legal support to those who need help filing a complaint.
Businesses have the responsibility to educate themselves and industry associations should help, Greene said. She said they have had similar complaints from people across the province.
“This is a pressing concern that needs to be addressed,” Greene emphasized.
The manager at Judy’s Cuisine said he wasn’t there on the day in question, but Steven Tong said if the Sinatos were told to leave it was a mistake.
“I say sorry,” Tong said.
He said he understands it is the law and added he would make sure that staff understand.
“I will tell them,” he said.
Global News tried talking to someone in charge at Beijing Restaurant on three separate occasions, but there has been no response.
Sinato said the rejections caused a lot of stress on everybody involved and wants businesses to learn the law not just for her son, but for all those who require service dogs.
“I’m just hoping that people can understand and learn that service dogs, they’re not there as a pet. They are there for a reason.”