Tampa veteran booted from NJ boardwalk; officer said service dog wasn't allowed

NORTH WILDWOOD, NJ - A Tampa veteran who served 19 years in the army was kicked off of a New Jersey boardwalk by a police officer who questioned the validity of his service dog.

Jared Goering and his wife Sally were taking their first vacation in years, and while walking along the Jersey Shore, they were confronted by a North Wildwood police officer.  He said no dogs were allowed unless they were guide dogs for the blind.  Goering quickly pointed to the service dog insignia on the collar.

"The officer we were talking to didn't want to hear anything of it," Jared said.  "He just wanted us off the boardwalk."  

Goering's wife said the officer made offensive remarks during the confrontation.

"He went on to say that, 'What are they doing?  Giving every vet a dog now?'" Sally Goering said.

The couple were issued a summons, and when they asked where they could talk with a supervisor about the incident, they said the officer gave them a phony address.

"Frustrating.  Angry.  You know, sad.  It was pretty disrespectful to me," Goering said.

Goering was forced into medical retirement from the army in 2009, after he was the victim of two IED explosions in Afghanistan within a 36-hour period.  He now suffers from a variety of side effects from his injury.

But Goering believes his service dog helps him lead a normal life.

"Before I got my dog, I didn't want to do anything," the veteran said.  "I didn't want to go with my wife anywhere.  I didn't like crowds.  Then I got my dog and I was able to go out and do that stuff," Goering said.

The North Wildwood Police department issued a statement saying it had launched an internal affairs investigation into the incident.

"We've always proudly supported military veterans," said Matthew Gallagher, North Wildwood chief of police.

"The officer will be reprimanded if the investigation deems such action necessary," Gallagher said.

The city's mayor also promised a formal apology if there was any wrongdoing.

Mike Halley, owner of K-9's for Veterans in Tampa, trains and places Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, poodles, and other breeds into the homes of war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses as a result of combat.

Halley said while more service dogs are being used by veterans than ever before, there's still a long way to go to get people informed about the laws.

"Service dogs are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act," Halley said.  "It makes me sad to hear about what happened to the young man."

Halley said many people are unaware of just how effective service dogs can be in treating many war related problems veterans face.

"I can take somebody with severe PTSD, and I can make them have a night of sleep the first night he's in the kennel," Halley said.  "The next night he's going to have smiles on his face."

When asked to explain how it works, Halley said it has to do with the physical connection veterans make with the animals.  

"It's the dogs," Halley said.

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