A former armed forces medic was left feeling ‘sick and embarrassed’ after being turned away from a restaurant because he was with his PTSD support dog.
Richard Mearns, 38, was told ‘no animals at all’ were allowed into the establishment, even after he had explained to staff members why he needed his Labrador Ziggy with him at all times.
As a result, he was made to leave Shapur Indian Restaurant in Strand, central London, with the veteran saying he was discriminated against because of his condition.
After Richard was turned away from the restaurant last Thursday, November 21, he went to a Thai restaurant next door who welcomed him with open arms. However, his night had already been ruined and Ziggy had to work hard to calm him down.
Speaking to UNILAD, Richard, from London, said Ziggy does ‘a multitude of tasks’ which allow him to live an ordinary life, including creating space in busy areas and grounding him – which involves the dog resting his head on Richard’s lap and bringing his attention to him.
Ziggy also wakes Richard up from flashbacks in the middle of the night in a variety of different ways – from whining to jumping on him – and ‘mouths at’ him when his anxiety gets too high.
Despite Richard attempting to explain this to the restaurant staff, he says he was ushered away as soon as he asked for a table, getting told ‘no animals’.
He explained what happened next:
I asked why he was discriminating against me because all I want to do is have a normal life. I then asked if I was blind and had a Guide dog would he refuse me, [but] he said no animals, I am calling my manager.
I responded with: forget it I am going next door [because] I knew the restaurant next door had no issues.
The 38-year-old said he felt ‘sick and embarrassed’ by the incident, adding: ‘I don’t need extra stress as it can be challenging at times to carry out what would otherwise be normal day-to-day tasks.’
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to Richard and Ziggy, either. Another time, at an independent restaurant, staff ‘point blank refused’ to let them in, resulting in Richard going straight home without eating as he was having ‘a bad day’ with his mental health.
Richard continues to suffer flashbacks, having witnessed traumatic casualties in both allied and enemy soldiers, after being deployed to Iraq in 2003. He was diagnosed with PTSD in 2009, before he was introduced to Ziggy.
As the assistance dog is so important to Richard, he’s pushing for more education about assistance dogs in workplaces so other people don’t have to go through what he has experienced a number of times.
Richard talks openly about his journey to recovery and delivers motivational talks across the country, in the hope that he can raise awareness about PTSD and how to live with it.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).