Service dog vs. emotional support dog: What’s the difference and where are they allowed?

May 7, 2019 GMT

The owners of a service dog that was attacked in a restaurant are making a plea to pet owners - only bring your dog where it is legally allowed, and if your dog cannot control itself in public, keep it at home.

For service dogs, suiting up means it is time to work. A recent day on the job at a Wilmington restaurant ended in a veterinary ER visit for Grace.

“I don’t know what started it or what instigated it, but the dog just saw Grace and ran over and lunged at her and bit her right on the side of her neck and ear,” said Jeri Wentworth.

Grace, a service dog, supports Wentworth’s daughter Melissa.


“I didn’t think that dog would ever let go,” Melissa said.

“I was kicking the dog and then I took my thumb and I was just trying to push the eyeball,” Jeri Wentworth said.

They said the whole ordeal was terrifying.

“I was just thinking, ‘My dog may die today,’” Melissa Wentworth said.

Grace needed staples to close the bite wounds.

Sharon Battistelli, the owner of the dog that attacked Grace said her dog provides her with emotional support, but emotional support animals are not legally allowed in restaurants in North Carolina.

Legitimate service animals typically go through years of training.

Because of the tasks they perform for a person with a disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act says service animals can legally go into restaurants and grocery stores.

Under the law, therapy, emotional support animals and pets are not allowed inside grocery stores or restaurant dining rooms. A restaurant can allow animals in patio areas.

Battistelli said she wasn’t familiar with the law, but that she “never had a problem” taking her dog into restaurants.

She said her dog, Honor, had a health condition, and may have attacked because she was “on medication, confined to a crate and isolated for 14 weeks.”

Animal Control cited Battistelli, and declared Honor “potentially dangerous.” She had to post a sign at her house? warning her dog may bite. She also paid Grace’s vet bill.

Melissa Wentworth said after the trauma of the attack, she no longer feels safe taking Grace out with her.

She and her mom hope others hear the message about training, the risks and the law.