UNION COUNTY, N.C. - A Union County woman with disabilities who claims she was refused service at a local Smoothie King because of her service animal says the discrimination against her dog continues from restaurant service to her search for employment.
Sarah Rojas has undergone multiple brain surgeries and now needs a service animal. She and Ankia have been attached at the hip for the last year. Their journey together has taken some unanticipated turns.
"I didn't expect it to change my life in the way that it has," she told FOX 46. "In a negative way."
Anika is Rojas' service dog. She's had more than $15,000 worth of training and is insured. Despite all of Anika's qualifications, Rojas says it's not enough to escape the stigma that surrounds Anika being a pit bull.
"I constantly tell people I used to be a part of the stigma. When we first went to adopt Anika, I was like 'there's no way I'm getting a pit bull'," she said.
Rojas quickly realized Anika was the perfect fit. However, Anika's ability to help Sarah didn't extend to the job market.
"The fact that I can't get a job, what's the point of having it? All my education, all of my experience, it makes me feel like, 'why am I still here?'"
Rojas says she's applied for more than 200 jobs as a licensed massage therapist and been turned down by all of them.
"Forty-five of them flat out told me it was because I have a service dog. Two of them put it in writing."
Despite the obstacles, Rojas says she's not stopping until more is done to protest her and others.
"I do think people need to be more understanding. I didn't ask for this. I didn't ask for four brain surgeries. I didn't ask for a service dog," Rojas told FOX 46. "Someone has to stand up and walk tall for these people and be the advocate. I don't mind being that person."
Anika is protected under federal law as a registered service dog, making it illegal for a person or establishment to refuse Rojas service or employment because of her dog.
Rojas says she is in the process of taking legal action.