Man brings snake into restaurant, claims it is a ‘service animal’

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Snake wasn't on the menu of a Missouri restaurant, but that's what patrons got -- along with a side of rattled nerves. Linda Russell reports for KYTV on Friday, Aug. 15, 2015.

NIXA, Mo. – Many Americans are terrified of snakes, so when a woman encountered one in a restaurant, her stomach turned.

“We had just gotten our meal and in walks this lady and man. And the lady had the snake around her neck first and it started to slither off of her neck, down into the booth behind her,” said Lisa Loeffelholz.

“And she was pulling it, and I just started trembling and… ‘We’ve got to get out of here. We’ve got to get out of here,” said Terri Pitts.

Loeffelholz says as the woman passed the snake across the table to the man, she complained to the manager.

“The manager came over to us and said it was his service animal, so we have to allow him to stay. So that’s when my mom and I and the girls decided that we would not stay,” she said.

The restaurant’s manager told KYTV that he allowed the snake to stay because of the man’s claim, but Loeffelholz doubted his story.

“He said, ‘No, it’s my service animal and I’m allowed to have it because it helps me with my depression.’ So I said. ‘Well, I’m sorry about that, but a snake in a restaurant probably is not the best thing.’ He said, ‘It’s no different than having a dog service animal sitting here.’ I said, ‘Well, a little bit, it is!” she said.

According to officials, the Americans with Disabilities Act defines service animals as dogs only.

“Management didn’t know what to do because they didn’t want to violate anybody’s rights, and that’s understandable, but the patron could have then called 911. It doesn’t have to be the restaurant that does that,” said Jill Finney, the Nixa city spokesperson.

County officials add that snakes pose a number of health concerns.

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