WaWa Inc. to Pay $12,500 in Service-Dog Case

WaWa Inc. has paid Patrick Stark, a New Jersey glassworks artist, $12,500 to settle a claim that Stark was wrongfully turned away when he entered the convenience store with his service dog.

Stark, 33, said he went into a Millville, N.J., WaWa to buy a sandwich on June 13 but was told he had to leave Copenhagen, his Queensland heeler that wears special tags, outside. But the dog is a necessity. Three years ago, Stark, an Army veteran, was mugged and has experienced occasional seizures ever since. Copenhagen helps him get around.

AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma

Stark claimed he explained that the dog was legally permitted to remain, but a store manager told him to leave. This was the fifth time since April 2011 that Stark said he'd a problem getting served at WaWa. After each incident, he said he'd written a letter to corporate headquarters, but heard nothing.

Stark subsequently filed a complaint with the New Jersey State Attorney General's office Division on Civil Rights.

WaWa has agreed, in addition to the $12,500 payment, to post signs in its New Jersey stores advising customers that service dogs were welcome. It has also agreed to train its New Jersey employees about laws pertaining to service animals, as well as the company policy welcoming them.

The convenience store chain has also agreed to "seriously consider" making a charitable contribution to an organization devoted to providing service animals to individuals with disabilities, according to the complaint filed with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.

" Since the incident we have been revisiting associate training and understanding around service animals in all of our stores throughout our five state area and we will continue to make this a priority," said a WaWa spokesperson. "We are committed to doing everything we can to make sure everyone in all of the communities we serve feels welcomed, respected and included."

The convenience store chain did not admit any wrongdoing in the Stark case.

"This is an important resolution of this matter," said Division Director Craig T. Sashihara in a statement. "The allegations in this case were troubling. However, we credit WaWa for its responsiveness, and for being ready to educate store employees about the rights of people who employ service animals."

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