Best Western International has responded to its Baton Rouge property that refused the reservation of a North Carolina family traveling with a service dog by temporarily restricting the hotel from accepting reservations.
A representative from Best Western International sent Yahoo Shine the following statement: "We provide extensive training to ensure our hotels understand and address the needs of guests with special needs. When this matter came to our attention, we immediately provided direction to the hotel and a reservation was offered to the family. We deeply regret the matter and we will continue to proactively communicate ADA requirements and training to Best Western branded hotels to ensure all guests are treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Further, we have restricted the hotel on our reservations systems and we have required the hotel to stop representing itself as a Best Western branded hotel (cover or remove all Best Western signs and logos) until its representatives attend a hearing at our corporate headquarters at which their future association with Best Western will be decided."
Karen Vaughn, an attorney, had booked a one-night stay at the Best Western Plus Siegen Inn in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while traveling with her three children and a 65-pound golden retriever service dog named Chip, who is always by the side of Vaughn's 13-year-old son, Beau. Beau suffers from a rare type of epilepsy called Landau-Kleffner syndrome, and Chip alerts the family when he’s showing signs of a seizure.
Yahoo Shine could not reach Vaughn for comment, but she told local news affiliate WAFB that, though she wasn't legally obligated to do so, she informed the hotel that Chip would be staying with them. Shortly after, she received an email from the Best Western stating that her reservation was canceled. "We got an email saying due to unforeseen circumstances, they will not be able to honor our reservations. Working through that they said, 'Oh you're bringing a pet, and Best Western isn't pet-friendly,'” Vaughn told the station.
A receptionist explained to Vaughn that while she's aware of the law, the owner doesn’t allow dogs, prompting the family to book a stay in another hotel. Interestingly, a week later, the Best Western corporate office contacted Vaughn and offered to honor her reservation, but it was too late. “I don't want to go to a hotel where I have to force them to follow the law,” Vaughn said in the interview.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals can accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed. Staffers are allowed to only ask two questions: Whether the dog is a service animal and what tasks he has been trained to perform. Allergies or a fear of dogs are not valid reasons to refuse service, and even if the place of business sells or prepares food, it still must allow the service animal, regardless of health codes.
In February, a military veteran named Aryeh Ohayon who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder was denied entry into a Thai restaurant in Houston when he arrived with his service dog Bandit. Ohayon called the police but said the responding officer made him feel worse. According to local news station KHOU, the policeman said, “You’re not blind … I don’t see why you need the dog” and that the restaurant had the right to refuse service because it is a private entity. In September, veterans Amanda Houser and Holly Bolesky and their two service dogs were asked to leave an Alabama Long John Silver’s because of customer allergies. Both women refused to leave until they were finished eating and filed police reports.