Veteran Steve Smith was a Marine serving in Iraq for 7 years. As a result of his service to his country, he now lives every day with PTSD. It is with his service dog, Rebel, by his side that he’s able to lead a more normal life.
“I hate being out in public and hate being around large groups of people,” Smith told WJAX, “(I) hate going out, period. With him, it makes it easier.”
Unlike the stories we hear every day about veterans being kicked out of restaurants and other public places because of their service dogs, Smith and Rebel were recently kicked out of Dog Wood Park in Jacksonville, Florida, an off-leash a dog park, for keeping his dog on a leash.
Smith said he brought Rebel to the park for some exercise and to work on his training when an employee of the park came outside and told him he had to remove the service dog’s leash or leave the park.
He was told he could work with his dog in a separate special events area of the park, but that he would have to pay to use the area.
WJAX spoke with the owner of the park, who wasn’t there at the time, but said the same rule applies to all dogs in the park – they must be off-leash. When some dogs are leashed and others are not, she explained, it can change the dogs’ behavior toward one another. She said, had she been there at the time, she would not have charged Smith to use the special events area of the park to work with Rebel.
Smith has since cancelled his membership at the park and insists he won’t be back.
“I’m outraged that’s the way, not only they want to treat a veteran, but that’s the way they want to treat anybody else who has a service dog,” he said.