A veteran and her service dog were repeatedly told by a motel manager that they were not welcome even after the veteran explained that her companion was a service dog.
The incident took place in Willmar, Minnesota. Sandy Gessler, a veteran with PTSD, had previously made reservations at the motel.
“I deal with military post traumatic stress disorder,” Gessler said, who served 18 years in the armed forces and did tours of duty during the Iraq War. She suffers from extreme anxiety, depression and nightmares. In public she can find it hard to function, especially in unfamiliar places, such as a strange hotel room.
And even though the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act state service dogs are not pets and are allowed in most public places, even if the business has a no-pet policy, the manager of the hotel refused to let the veteran and her service dog stay for the night.
That stance by the manager of the motel was a clear violation of the law.
Gessler left the motel and found a room elsewhere, but even there she didn’t receive a warm welcome. The second motel charged her $10 for Cozmo to stay in the room, again against the ADA. She said the motel staff also asked for proof Cozmo was a service dog, also illegal.
Gessler hopes the public and businesses become more educated about service dogs, especially those who serve a growing number of veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and other mental health issues. While the ADA accepts PTSD and mental illness service dogs, the Veterans Administration does not, though the VA is doing a three-year study on it.
“Society isn’t ready for this PTSD service dog,” Gessler said, and it leads to situations similar to the one Gessler found herself in while in Willmar.
“I would like businesses to be aware of the dos and don’ts of the law,” Gessler said.
“I find hotels very, very difficult to deal with,” Gessler said, adding she has had issues many times across the country.
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