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Ariz. bill to ban service dogs in restaurants rejected

Swayed by a roomful of vocal adults and quiet dogs, Arizona lawmakers abandoned a bill Thursday that would have allowed restaurants to ban service animals.

By the end of the lengthy hearing, even the bill's sponsor, Republican state Rep. Bob Thorpe couldn't vote for it.

Thorpe pitched his amendment as a way of punishing those who improperly bring their dogs to restaurants by claiming a medical need. The bill would have required service animals to be registered with the state and carry permits in public.

At the same time, it provided a punishment for scofflaws. It also permitted restaurants to exclude service animals if it posed a health code risk.

But dozens of people with disabilities ranging from blindness to epilepsy showed up on short notice to say the bill's language was at odds with federal protections and would have isolated them from society. At least a half dozen dogs sat quietly next to their owners in a sign that the trained animals aren't typically a nuisance in public.

Maricopa resident Tim Mullen, who suffers seizures, showed up with his $18,000 service dog, Garth, to say he already encounters discrimination from restaurants that shunt him to dark corners.

"He's saved my life four times already," Mullen said, noting the dog activated a watch-like sensor that summons emergency workers to his location.

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