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Hotel calls police on a disabled veteran because he had an assistance dog

Jeffrey Crockett took a road trip with his family from Texas to visit friends.  On the way home they got stuck in traffic and decided to stop at a hotel for the night.  Mr. Crockett called around to several hotels in the area, settling on the Days Inn in Tulsa, Oklahoma because they had rooms with king size beds available.

When the family arrived at the hotel, they were not met with the polite welcome they had anticipated.  Mr. Crockett served in two branches of the military.  He was in the United States Air Force from 1987-1990, and the United States Marine Corps from 1996-1999.  As a result of injuries he suffered during his service, Mr. Crockett now suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Major Depression, Anxiety and Panic disorders, Degenerative Disc Disease of the neck and spine, and Denervation of the myelin sheath around his nerve root endings.  Mr. Crockett describes the role of his service dog, Phineas, as follows:

"One of my service dog's main functions is to alert me before I have a PTSD/Anxiety attack. He can do this up to three days in advance by giving me certain signals that I recognize. When I do have an attack, he remains by my side, keeping people away from my and watching over me to assure that I am not messed with. Phineas will also assist me if needed by seeking help for me if needed. He also assists me by helping provide me assistance with my balance, picking things up that I drop and bringing them/giving them to me, grabbing things that are too low to reach and handing them to me and assisting me in getting up from kneeling and sitting positions. He is also learning how to wake me up from nightmares by licking my face until I wake up."

When the Days Inn front desk staff member found out that Mr. Crockett had a service dog, she informed him that they had a policy prohibiting pets.  Mr. Crockett produced a card which explained that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs were not considered pets and were therefore not subject to the same restrictions.  He offered to show her the card, but she refused.  He then began reading it to her.  According to Mr. Crockett, the woman's response was, "I don't need to read it because I don't make the rules, I just enforce them, and the hotel policy is "No pets allowed".  The woman then told Mr. Crockett to leave or she would call the police.  When she did not immediately do so, Mr. Crockett decided that he would.  Three units arrived a few minutes later and listened to both sides of the story.  The police officer then told Mr. Crockett he should get Phineas certified because it would "look better."  When he tried to explain to the officer that the law did not require him to carry papers, the policeman responded that without seeing it in writing, he could not force the Days Inn to rent him a room.  At that point the family, now exhausted from a day of traveling as well as this extremely unpleasant experience, decided to go to a nearby Best Western.  There they were greeted them warmly and the Best Western gave them a reduced rate because of what they'd been through. 

When Mr. Crockett got home, he contacted the corporate office of Days Inn about the incident.  In response he only received an email stating that they do not own that branch of the chain, but assuring him that all licensees are expected to comply with applicable law.  Which is to say that Days Inn corporate wanted no part of the situation.

The state of Connecticut has several Days Inn locations.  Of the hotels contacted for this article, the Days Inn of Torrington and New Haven both have "no pet" policies.  However each hotel was willing to host guests with service dogs provided they had certifications.  The Days Inn of Hamden, Connecticut stated that they have a "no pet" policy and that service dogs were not allowed because they were pets.  When the desk clerk was informed that this was a violation of Federal law, he simply repeated "no pets."  When asked for his name, after a pause he replied "Bob." 

This incident shows that, whether it be in Tulsa Oklahoma or right here in Connecticut, ignorance is alive and well.  Only through continued outreach and education can we reduce and eliminate incidents such as this one. 

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Comments

  • Jeff Crockett 3 years ago

    Thanks for the great article Beth. It was very disheartening to hear that other Days Inn hotels are also discriminating against disabled persons with service dogs, even though their Corporate Office insists that they ensure compliance with all Federal laws at all their corporate hotel locations. Disabled individuals who use service dogs need to be aware that according to ADA guidelines you are NOT required to have certification papers for your dog, and a business CANNOT require you to have certification papers. I have found since trying to deal with this situation that there is a lot of confusion out there regarding service dogs and when and where they are allowed to be. Unfortunately, carrying a card explaining the ADA rules is helpful but in my particular case the police officer who responded to my call would not accept it as being legitimate because "I could have printed it off of any computer". I am wondering if carrying a "Certified Copy" of the ADA Guidelines would be enough to satisfy a law enforcement official the next time something like this happens?

    I had been seeking help and advice from a disability law center here in Oklahoma, but they have not returned my calls in weeks, and I need to get this case in front of the Department of Justice and the Attorney General of Oklahoma as soon as possible. I am therefore seeking assistance from anyone willing to help me get this case moving along as quickly as possible. I need legal advice and assistance as to how to proceed with this case, and I would appreciate any help. If you are willing to help me please contact the author of this article and she can get in contact with me.

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