Medical Service Dog: Family Kicked Out of Restaurant?

A Tulare County family claims a restaurant denied it service, because of its medical alert dog.

The owner of the restaurant is threatening legal action.

Five-year-old Laura Inestroza of Springville{}doesn't just consider her Labrador, Darwin, her four-legged best friend.

Darwin, is her lifeline.

Darwin is trained to use his sense of smell to help Laura, who is a type-1 diabetic.

He can alert her family members if her blood sugar is dangerously low or high.

"Darwin is not just changing lives, he's saving lives every single day," says Julia Inestroza. "We feel blessed to have this dog."

But that blessing, comes with some twists and turns.

Sometimes the family has to explain to people that Darwin helps Laura-- and is not simply a pet.

Other times, Julia Inestroza says, Darwin has led to the family not being allowed in places.

Take for instance, an incident in January.

Darwin had just been honored at{}a graduation ceremony in the Bay Area.

The family was returning to{}Tulare County{}and planned to eat lunch at Las Palmas restaurant in Downtown Visalia.

"We had dined there plenty of times with Darwin and had no issue," says Julia Inestroza.

But this time, was different.

She says a waitress asked the family to leave.

"I said, 'Why are you kicking us out?' She said, 'The owners said you have to leave.' I said, 'May I speak with the owners?' They were at a booth. I tried to explain to the owner that Darwin is a medical alert dog, and that she needed to give us access.

The owner of the restaurant, Alicia Cortes, did not want to go on camera.

But, she says she remembers the family.

She noted that the Inestrozas did not make it clear that Darwin was a medical alert dog.

That's where she says the misunderstanding began.

Julia Inestroza disagrees.

"When we replied medical alert, you need to give us service. She told us that she could refuse service to anybody," said Inestroza.

Cortes told KMPH Fox 26 News, "We do allow for medical necessity. It's like having a person for us."

Inestroza was so upset about the experience.

She blogged about it, and even wrote a letter to the Department of Justice to make it aware about, what she calls, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Cortes responded, "She is slandering us. She threatened she would bring us down. We may be talking with lawyers."

Inestroza countered, "Slander is when things are incorrect and untrue. I stand by everything."

Inestroza insists that she is not targeting the restaurant, but wants to educate people so this does not happen to anyone else.

"Things need to change. This is not the way to treat people in our situation. People that have a dog won't have to go through that again," she says.

Cortes says she received a lot of phone calls Monday, from people upset about the blog postthat has been viewed more than 9,000 times.

Cortes and her husband {}say they have been in business for 49 years-- and this is a testament to maintaining a reputable business.