This Iraq War Vet Was Booted From A Gun Show Because Of His Service Dog

news
Courtesy photo

On Saturday, what John Williams thought was going to be an easy afternoon manning a booth at a local gun show in Evansville, Indiana, turned into something much more unpleasant. The retired Army sergeant first class was kicked out of a gun show on Feb. 4 because of his service dog.


Williams, a 43-year-old Iraq War vet, was slated to be an exhibitor at the show before organizer Thomas Allman asked him to leave because of his dog allergy, local NBC news affiliate WFIE reported on Feb. 5.

Williams told Task & Purpose that he set up his booth and went to his vehicle to get his dog. He was then waved down by Allman, who said that dogs weren’t allowed there because he was allergic.

"He said ‘I'll let you get set up, and when I get sick, I'm gonna sue you,’" Williams told WFIE.

However, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a dog allergy isn't sufficient grounds to ban a service dog.

Williams' service dog WinchesterPhoto via Soldier Dogs for Independence Facebook

"Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals," a 2010 Department of Justice fact sheet about service animals reads. "When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility."

Williams, who is a board member of the nonprofit service-dog organization Soldier Dogs for Independence and is trained in dealing with these kinds of tense scenarios, said his first priority was deescalating the situation. He said he took Winchester to his vehicle, then tried to re-engage Allman in a constructive manner. He said he reminded Allman of basic information about service dogs, like their need to be well-groomed (for reasons precisely like this one), and asked if there were any accommodations that could be made to make the situation work.

But instead of trying to meet him halfway, Allman offered him $50 and asked him to leave, Williams told Task & Purpose. Allman also threatened to sue Williams.

Williams said he waited in the building lobby until a total of seven police officers arrived on the scene, at which point the authorities took statements from both sides. Williams said the gun show staff told police that “since it was their gun show, they could not allow dogs,” despite the fact that the event was held at a National Guard armory and the organizers’ are required to adhere to state and federal laws.

"It doesn't apply because he's not setting up at my gun show because we don't allow dogs in my gun show," Allman told WFIE.

According to a police incident report provided to Task & Purpose, Allman’s wife and business partner, Karen Sue Allman, told Williams that she would refund his booth rental and setup costs, and let him attend the event.

“Williams agreed to leave soon, after quietly protesting in the entryway, and deal with the situation thru[sic] proper legal channels more familiar with the American Disabilities Act,” the report states.

Williams has required the use of a service dog since he retired from the Army in 2012.

“I didn’t leave my house for the first year or so after I retired from the military,” Williams told Task & Purpose, “because when you’re in the military, then you can surround yourself with people who’ve been in the same situations you’ve been in, and you’re comfortable with that. When you finally get out of that shell and then you go someplace and get denied like this, it just kinda sets you back.”

John WilliamsCourtesy photo

Williams said that right after his military retirement in October 2012, a constellation of personal catastrophes struck, including financial issues, the dissolution of a relationship and the death of his 11-year-old dog.

“I really thought the sky was falling in on me,” he said.

Williams’ mom, who lived in Evansville, Indiana, told him about a program called Soldier Dogs for Independence, which matches veterans with service dogs. He wound up moving to Evansville, and within a week, his VA disability claim came through and he signed up for the program. Winchester acts as “a bracing dog” for him, so he’s used like a cane. He says he took the public-access test (through which dogs get certified as service animals) about eight months later.

Winchester also helps with Williams’ pulmonary sarcoidosis, a condition that causes his knees and ankles to flare up, which he developed as a result of his service in Iraq.

As of press time, Williams said that he and his girlfriend are “fairly certain” they’ll pursue legal recourse against the gun-show organizers.

“One of our advocates is the Indiana Bar Association, so the legal consideration is definitely there, and we’re leaning that way,” Williams said. “The absolute first concern is gonna be ensuring that all of this gentleman’s events that are held in armories are in compliance.”

Task & Purpose reached out to Allman who refused to comment for this story.

The show in question was sponsored by the Tri-State Knife and Gun Collectors LLC and held at the National Guard Armory in Evansville, Indiana.

(Associated Press/Tom Williams)

Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician and retired Navy rear admiral who had a short run as the nominee for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2018, now plans to run for a seat in Congress.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon will implement an "operational pause" on the training of foreign students inside the United States as the military undergoes a review of screening procedures, according to senior defense officials.

Read More Show Less
In this Nov 24, 2009, file photo, a University of Phoenix billboard is shown in Chandler, Ariz. The University of Phoenix for-profit college and its parent company will pay $50 million and cancel $141 million in student debt to settle allegations of deceptive advertisement brought by the Federal Trade Commission. (AP Photo/Matt York)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The University of Phoenix, which is owned by Apollo Education Group, has agreed to pay $191 million to settle charges that it falsely advertised close ties with major U.S. companies that could lead to jobs for students, the Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday.

The University of Phoenix will pay $50 million to the FTC to return to consumers and cancel $141 million in student debt.

Some of the advertisements targeted military and Hispanic students, the FTC said.

Read More Show Less
Shane Reynolds, UCF Research Associate demonstrates an AR/VR system to train soldiers and Marines on how to improve their ability to detect improvised explosive devices. (Orlando Sentinel/Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda)

As UCF research associate Shane Reynolds guides his avatar over a virtual minefield using his iPad, small beeps and whistles reveal the location of the scourge of the modern war zone: Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs. He must take his time to sweep every last inch of the playing field to make sure his character doesn't miss any of the often-deadly bombs.

Despite his slow pace, Reynolds makes a small misstep and with a kaboom! a bomb blows up his player, graphically scattering body parts.

Read More Show Less
US Navy

The Navy has posthumously awarded aviator and aircrewman wings to three sailors killed in last week's shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

"The selfless acts of heroism displayed by these young Sailors the morning of Dec. 6 are nothing short of incredible," Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Daniel Dwyer said in a statement.

Read More Show Less