JESSUP, Md. -
A truck driver tells WMAR News he was asked to leave a fast food restaurant in Howard County because of his service dog.
Under the federal "Americans With Disabilities Act," if you need a service dog to help you get through your day, you are allowed to bring the dog anywhere the public is allowed to go.
Since 2002 truck driver Steve Kleckner of Minnesota has traveled with "Snickers" -- a German Shepherd / Akita mix that helps him hear.
At age 13, Snickers doesn't get around as well as she used to – but: “Her sense of hearing is so unbelievably sharp,” Kleckner said.
Pete has used hearing aids since he was 11 years old. He's been riding with Snickers since 2002.
“When the alarm clock goes off she wakes me up,” he said.
She can also alert him if a stranger approaches his truck.
But early Wednesday morning at the Taco Bell along Route 1 North of Laurel, Pete says it wasn't a stranger, but the manager who approached them after Pete finished eating.
“A manager came over to me and said ‘I'm going to call the police, you're not supposed to have a dog in here,’" he said.
Pete says Snickers was wearing her orange cape, identifying her as a service dog. Still, the manager threatened to call police.
“I said to her go for it she's a service dog. It's protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,” Kleckner said.
He then called the police himself -- and was surprised by their reaction when they arrived.
He says two Howard County police officers told him he was trespassing, and that he should leave the restaurant.
“The intimidation tactic,” Kleckner said.
So he left, and he says an officer even followed him back to the industrial park where he's waiting for his next load.
“I'm frustrated right now with the police they knew this, they knew this and they said we're here to uphold the law and said who's law,” he said.
In an e-mailed statement, a spokeswoman for the Howard County Police Department confirmed the incident happened. She said the officers may not have been able to see proof that Snickers was a service dog.
Kleckner said she was wearing the orange cape -- but the federal law does not require service dogs to be identified in that manner.
Kleckner says a district manager from Taco Bell apologized to him.
In a statement, company spokesman Rob Poetsch wrote: “The service dog was allowed inside our store. However, other guests asked that the patron leave the restaurant several hours after the customer's meal was finished.”
Kleckner says he was in the restaurant for an hour or less.