Disabled veteran confronted by Starbucks employee about service dog

8:31 PM, Feb 8, 2014   |    comments
(Photo: Eric Risberg AP)
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HOUSTON (KHOU) -- A disabled U.S. army veteran says he was confronted and embarrassed at a Houston Starbucks because of his service dog.

Yancy Baer is sharing his story in hopes of educating others. He is still adjusting to his life as an amputee.

Doctors discovered he had bone cancer after a non-combat related injury in Iraq in 2009. His left leg from the knee down had to be amputated.

"You go through the low points and high points," explained Baer.

He experienced one of those high points 14 weeks ago. That's when Baer got his physical service dog, Verbena, through a national organization called Canine Companions for Independence.

The organization trains service dogs and provides the canines to disabled people.

Baer traveled to Houston from San Antonio this week to share his experience on behalf of the organization.

He traveled to a Starbucks at 5535 Memorial Drive on Wednesday for a meeting. He wasn't expecting the greeting he received at the coffee shop.

"A gentleman from Starbucks meets me at the door and says I can't have her in the store," said Baer.

Baer says he explained that Verbena is his physical service dog.

"He stated, you're not blind," recalled Baer. "It was in your face, loud and bold. I got really nervous. I was shaking because I was being confronted."

According to Baer, the employee continued to confront him in front of a store full of customers.

"I explained what all she does, and his next comment was, 'Why can't you do that yourself,'" said Baer.

Baer remembers a customer standing up for him.

Eventually, he spoke with another employee and got his point across. The employee who stopped him at the door did apologize about what happened.

"People with disabilities, you can't always see those disabilities. You never know what a service dog is for," said Baer.

Baer was wearing pants at the time. He believes the employee wouldn't have made such a big deal had he been wearing shorts.

He hopes others learn that a person with a service dog doesn't need to have an obvious or visible disability.

"Be careful about who you approach and how you approach it. You've got to be sensitive to people," said Baer. "This isn't acceptable. It can't be acceptable."

Baer says he holds no hard feelings toward Starbucks as a company.

Starbucks corporate spokeswoman Laurel Harper released the following statement to KHOU:

"Starbucks always welcomes service animals to our stores, and this customer's experience is not consistent with the welcoming and friendly environment we strive to create for everyone. We have spoken with this customer to apologize for his experience, and we hope to have the opportunity to serve him again. We have also spoken with our store partner about this situation and used this as a coaching opportunity for the future."

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