On Veteran’s Day, Jeff Hall and his father went to Rino’s Pizzeria in Burlington, New Jersey for lunch. Hall who is a disabled Army veteran was also accompanied by Cooper, a four year-old Labrador Retriever, his service dog.
Shortly after getting their pizza, they were approached by the owner, Salvatore “Rino” Massa, who informed them that health standards did not allow pets in the restaurant. Hall informed him that Cooper is a service dog not a pet and that, as such, he was allowed to go anywhere that he goes.
Massa was unconvinced and says that he told them he was going to make a few phone calls.
The Halls were made uncomfortable by the confrontation and the attention that it had drawn and decided to box their pizza and leave the store.
While Massa claims that he never told them they would have to leave, it is understandable that Hall would not wish to stay after the incident as he suffers from PTSD stemming from his service in Bosnia in 1997. He is also an amputee with an artificial leg.
Both of the Halls say that they were asked to leave, although Massa says, “I told him to finish his food, and I’ll make a couple of phone calls, before I knew it, they left.” He says he was speaking to his attorney when they left.
In the wake of the bad publicity generated by the incident, Massa has offered to give free pizza to any military personnel or veterans with identification. This offer was made through his attorney, L. Ronald McCullough.
McCullough said, “Mr. Massa has the greatest respect and admiration for the service and sacrifice of our veterans, especially those who have sustained grievous wounds in our country’s service.”
That didn’t satisfy Hall, who described the incident as “humiliating” and said that he will not take advantage of the free pizza offer. He is considering taking legal action against the pizzeria. He also said that while the incident occurred on Veteran’s Day, he does not feel that the focus should be on veterans because others with disabilities also make use of service animals.
On Thursday he said, “It’s great that he wants to give veterans free pizza, but what about all the handicapped people and disabled people?”
He also said that he has suffered a setback with his PTSD, “I’m not doing good right now.”
Watch a HuffPo summary of the story in the video below: