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Disabled People With Service Dogs Turned Away From Dedham Restaurant

DEDHAM (CBS) - All they were hoping for was a dinner out with friends. But instead, a group of disabled people were shocked and frustrated when a local restaurant turned them away.

Miriam Cooper is legally blind, but clearly sees the wrong in what happened to her and her service dog "Diamond."

"Ignorance of the law: it's an explanation, but it's not an excuse," said Cooper.

Cooper was with 12 other folks at the Bamboo Gourmet Restaurant in Dedham Sunday night with six service dogs. The restaurant had admitted service dogs before, just never so many at once, and a manager voiced concern about dog mayhem at the buffet and customer allergies, even suggesting the dogs wait outside.

WBZ-TV's Ken MacLeod reports.

"It was just very disappointing and very disillusioning," said Cooper.

Because federal and state law require restaurants "to permit the entry and use of service animals by disabled individuals," Dedham police were summoned, but apparently didn't clarify much.

"It just seemed alternately that they weren't interested, didn't know, didn't care," said Cooper.

Police said no officials could discuss the matter with WBZ-TV on Monday night.

According to guidelines in other departments, officers should have informed Bamboo Gourmet Restaurant that unless they could show the dogs' "behavior posed a direct threat" or would cause an "undue burden," they were in violation of the law.

"They're supposed to help us secure our rights," said Cooper.

Police cannot force the restaurant to seat the wannabee diners and their service dogs. But, on the other hand, they should inform the owner that a criminal complaint might be sought against them.

Cooper hopes the incident educates.

"And in the end, we'd like to have a nice, Asian dinner," said Cooper.

An assistant manager at Bamboo admitted to WBZ-TV off camera that his restaurant had made mistakes in handling the incident. He said tempers on both sides made the situation worse, but assured us that if those patrons and dogs return, they are welcome.

The group of friends ate a late dinner somewhere else Sunday night with their dogs.

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