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

By Abby Ellin

Aug 9, 2012 3:21pm

 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 wawa dog cc 120809 wblog WaWa Inc. to Pay $12,500 in Service Dog Case

                                                                                                           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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