Man says he was kicked out of McDonald's - because of his 'assistance parrot'

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Jason Russell and his bird Miley
Jason Russell and his bird Miley

A man with his “assistance parrot” said he was booted out of McDonald’s for bringing the animal in with him.

Jason Russell took the so-called support bird with him to the Festival Park, Stoke-on-Trent, branch of the fast food giant, along with his partner, friend, and eight-year-old grandchild, at lunchtime last Friday. The 49-year-old described his feathered friends as "like his guide dog" and said he keeps Miley, the bird, in a special cage when out and about.

He claimed some restaurants and eateries welcomed him and his parrot, but McDonald’s wasn’t one of them. After he finished his meal, he was approached by two members of staff who told him he "can’t have that in here".

Jason told StokeonTrentLive: "Everything was fine when I walked in. We ordered, sat down, ate the meal. The little girl was talking to Miley. Two floor staff were hovering around, they never said anything. Once we’d eaten, one of them said ‘You can’t have that in here’. They made sure they took my money, ate the food and then did it."

He said he was told the bird caused a contamination risk, but added: "She can't get out or do anything. If she was on my shoulder, out of the appropriate thing, then fair enough, but she wasn’t. It was embarrassing, there was loads of people. It wasn’t done nicely. Other places embrace her, they look after her. They know she can’t get out.

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“If a manager had asked why I had the bird, I could have explained to them but I had no way of explaining. It wasn’t even a manager that came and told me.”

Miley is a white ducorps cockatoo, which is one of the 21 species of parrot belonging to the Cacatuidae family. Jason, who has several health conditions, claimed: "I've got a very rare genetic illness. There’s only four of us in the world. There’s a guy in America and his dad who’s passed away with it, me, and my dad who’s passed away. It causes a lot of chronic pancreatitis, heart disease, depression disorder and anxiety. When I go out I can be quite timid, I’m not very good in a lot of social situations, I get overwhelmed.

"Since I’ve had Miley, she helps me. She helps the social side of things. People go to her, she says hello and she talks. She is so sweet natured, there’s no bad bone in her body. She gets everyone’s ears up when she starts talking. I treat Miley like my guide dog."

Jason has since complained to McDonald's and added: "They need to learn that people have things for a reason sometimes. There’s need to be training on hidden disabilities and mental health and on why people have therapy animals. My mental health has been really bad but I’m getting to a level now, where, I’m starting to finally be OK. This has knocked me back again. It’s made me feel a bit deflated.

“There’s loads of therapy animals out there, cats, dogs, birds, to help people with mental health. If they’d had a chat it wouldn’t have been a problem. They made it a problem by taking my money and then kicking me out.”

A McDonald’s spokesperson: "We’re sorry to hear about this customer’s experience. Members of our Stoke restaurant team spoke to the customer regarding the bird that they’d brought into the restaurant, however it was not made clear to either of them, nor was there any official documentation provided, about the status of this animal. We understand the customer is in touch with our customer services team who are supporting them further.”

Rachel Alexander

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