"They both said that their animals were emotional service dogs," said Gil Ohana, the manager, explaining why he let them in. "One of them actually carried a doctor's letter."
The increasing appearance of pets whose owners say they are needed for emotional support in restaurants -- as well as on airplanes, in offices and even in health spas -- goes back, according to those who train such animals, to a 2003 ruling by the Department of Transportation. It clarified policies regarding disabled passengers on airplanes, stating for the first time that animals used to aid people with emotional ailments like depression or anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness.
The following year appellate courts in New York State for the first time accepted tenants' arguments in two cases that emotional support was a viable reason to keep a pet despite a building's no-pets policy. Word of the cases and of the Transportation Department's ruling spread, aided by television and the Internet. Now airlines are grappling with how to accommodate 200-pound dogs in the passenger cabin and even emotional-support goats.