Dog denial leads to arrest of Myrtle Beach man

troot@thesunnews.comJune 1, 2011 

A Myrtle Beach restaurant owner was arrested Monday after police said he refused to allow a service dog inside his business.

The incident is unusual because federal law regulates service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act, authorities said.

Hrachya Avagyan, 28, was charged with interfering with the rights of blind/disabled persons after officers were called about 7:45 p.m. Monday to Seafood World at 411 N. Kings Highway, police said.

Avagyan could not be reached for comment Tuesday. It was unclear if he had retained an attorney in the case.

If convicted, Avagyan faces a fine and up to three years in prison on the misdemeanor charge, Myrtle Beach Police Capt. David Knipes said.

A 53-year-old woman called police after she said she was turned away by Avagyan because she had a certified service dog, according to the report. The woman said Avagyan told her the restaurant is private property and he does not allow dogs inside.

The woman said she tried to explain the law to the man and tried to show him her certification for the dog, according to the report. Officers noted the dog wore a service animal vest that had an identification card in it.

Complaints about ADA violations are rare, said Adam Myrick, a spokesman with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

"Most everyone is well aware of the fact that these service animals are needed, and they are allowed in most of the time with no questions asked," Myrick said Tuesday. "It's not something we hear a lot about."

DHEC officials addressed animals in an Upstate restaurant a few years ago after learning the owners were dog friendly, and allowed pet owners to bring them in and hold them in their laps while dining, he said.

"It's very rare for us to hear anything about [service animals] because obviously most people see the need for one, and because of sensitivity, they welcome them in," Myrick said.

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723.

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