"Papi, there are no dogs allowed," probably isn't the best way to greet a customer who walks into your restaurant, particularly if the customer is 2011's New York City Council Veteran of the Year and the pooch is his "highly trained service dog." But that's what one Kentucky Fried Chicken employee allegedly said right before denying entrance to Charles Hernandez and his service dog, Valor, last February.
Hernandez isn't letting the faux pas pass. He told TMZ he is demanding at least $1 million in damages from the operators of the New York KFC franchise, and he does't want the payout in chicken wings.
A first responder at ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001, Hernandez went on to serve in Iraq from 2004-2006, according to CNN. He returned with a motion-impairing spinal cord injury and a traumatic brain injury, and he also suffered from night terrors as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2010, Project Healing Allies, a subset of Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities, which trains service dogs to help veterans with emotional traumas, paired him with a certified "mental service dog."
“I’m alive again," Hernandez told CNN in 2012. "What keeps me going is my dog.”
KFC is not the only fast-food giant to bar Valor from entry. Hernandez made a similar claim against McDonald's on Sept. 9, 2011, citing damages of "no less than $2 million." According to court documents, he alleged that the McDonald's manager told him to "Get that f-----g dog out of [here] or I'll call the cops and have you arrested."
He also claimed that the incident caused several of his PTSD symptoms to return, and that, as a result, "his medication regiment was altered considerably," the documents said. The case was voluntarily dismissed the following March after what appears to be successful private negotiations between the two parties.