My mom and I (and Faith and Ruby) had the privilege of attending the Wildrose DAD Conference in Oxford, MS this weekend. We had a great time and I can’t wait to tell you all about it, but first I’ll tell you about our experience at a “service dog friendly” hotel we stopped at on the way home.
Mom and I were exhausted after a great, but busy weekend, so we decided we would head home and just drive until we got too tired. We didn’t make it far, stopping in Jackson, MS. We pulled over in a decent looking, well lit area and I got online to find a room. I pulled up priceline.com and was able to find a hotel for a decent price right next to where we’d pulled over. We booked it on priceline, and then drove over to the Baymont Inn & Suites on I-55 North.
When we walked in I could tell that the receptionist had not noticed Ruby at my side, because she hadn’t mentioned it at all – and you don’t handle a service dog for long before realizing that almost EVERY single person you encounter will mention it – so I brought it to her attention.
“Ma’am, I’m not sure you noticed, so I want to bring it to your attention that we have a service dog.”
“Um, what is that?? I don’t even know what that is.”
“It’s my daughter’s service animal.”
(at this point, I’m beyond tired and a bit annoyed with her flippant responses) “A service animal. You know, like a seeing-eye dog, only we’re not blind. Our service dog is for a different medical need.”
“Uh! Did you talk to the manager about that??”
“No ma’am, but I shouldn’t need to. The law states that Ruby is allowed in all public places. I only bring it to your attention so you will be aware, in case another customer sees us and questions you about it. Also, to let you know, since you’re unaware, we should not be charged a pet deposit. Ruby is not a pet, she is a service animal.” (It’s also worth noting here that their website also states that service dogs are allowed.)
“Oh, well, um, ok. I guess.”
I’d noticed that a security guard had walked past us twice, noticed Ruby, and didn’t say a word. I *assumed* that meant because he understood what she was and that she was allowed. I learned later that was incorrect.
Mom and I made our way to our room and put down the few things we’d brought in with us, and headed back to the car to get a few more bags we needed. Again, we walked past the receptionist AND the security guard and neither of them said a word.
After we’d been up in our room for a while – well after 10pm – we hear a knock on our door. I peek through the hole and realize that it’s the security guard. I open the door and he says, “Ma’am, I just need to ask you about your dog.”
“Yes sir, she’s our service dog.”
“Well, who is she for?”
“She’s for my youngest daughter. I have an ID card for Ruby that explains the laws regarding service dogs if you’d like to see it.”
“No ma’am, I just needed to ask you a few questions for my report.”
“Hmm, well, yes sir, she’s a service dog that alerts to dangerous high and low blood sugars in my very young daughter.”
“Ok, that’s all I need to know. Enjoy your stay.”
The man was very nice about it, which I appreciated. I was a bit bothered by the fact that he waited until after 10 pm, and after we got into our room before he approached us, but was sure this was the end of it.
The next morning I got up, put Ruby’s leash and vest on, and took her outside. I walked past 3 employees and several customers sitting in the breakfast room, and no one said a word. I thought to myself that I was glad that the security guard must have informed them of us during the shift change.
A few minutes later we walked back in and immediately the receptionist tried to stop us saying we “weren’t allowed to bring dogs inside”.
“Oh, she’s our service dog, we checked in with her last night.”
She just sort of stares at me, so I walk past her and turn the corner to head to the elevators. Another employee starts pointing at me and uttering, “uh! uh! uh!” while whistling to the receptionist to get her attention. (Seriously?? Quality customer service.)
I say, “I’m sorry, yes, she’s our service dog. We checked in with her last night. It should be in our paperwork.”
Again, she just stares at us, so I continue on.
A third employee comes trucking it out of the breakfast area, chasing me down, saying, “Excuse me, ma’am, you can’t have a dog in here!”
I turn to her and AGAIN say, “Yes, ma’am, it’s ok. She’s our service dog. We checked in with her last night.”
She just shrugged and nodded at me, so I get on the elevator to head to our room. After being back in our room long enough to feed Ruby, dress Faith, and begin to pack and get ready for the day myself, I hear a knock at the door. Seriously?? I say, “Just a second”, so that I could make sure we were all decent to go to the door, and before I could get to the door, they began knocking again!
“I’m coming! Just a second!” I look through the hole and see a male employee standing outside our room. I open the door.
“Ma’am, we’ve gotten several complaints that you have a dog in this room. Is that true??”
“Uh, Yes. We have our service dog. We checked in with her last night AND the security guard came up and took a report.”
“Oh, ok. Well, I need to see your ADA paperwork.”
“No sir, I don’t have, nor am I required to show, ADA paperwork. However, I do have an ID card for Ruby and a copy of the law regarding service dogs if you’d like to see those.”
“Yes ma’am, I would.”
I return to the door with Ruby’s ID card and a copy of the ADA Service Dog guidelines. He doesn’t even take them from me, just glances at them, and says “Ma’am, for future reference you need to let us know when you’re going to bring a dog in our hotel.”
“Sir, as I just stated, I checked in with her last night. When we walked in I brought it to the attention of the receptionist, and then we were visited later by the security guard who said he was writing a report about the fact that we have a service dog. I’m not sure what more I should have done.”
“Well, ma’am, did you book with a third party?”
“I’m not sure how that matters, but yes, we booked on priceline.”
“Ok, well, that’s probably part of it. They have no way of letting us know that you are coming. We are service dog friendly, but we need to know when a dog is coming.”
(Really?? What does this guy think “friendly” means??)
“Well, I don’t understand why you feel you need advanced notice, but I did bring it to the attention of the receptionist as soon as we walked in because she hadn’t seemed to notice Ruby at my side.”
“Well, see, if you were blind or mentally challenged we would have recognized her as a service animal, but we aren’t used to seeing dogs with people like you that, I guess, have other disabilities. If we’d known you were coming we’d have put you in a different part of the hotel away from other customers that might be afraid or have dog allergies. We’d have put you in a handicapped room.”
I’d stayed pretty calm up to that point, but this was getting a bit ridiculous. ”Well, sir, I brought it to the staff’s attention when we were checking in and THIS is the room they put us in. However, we don’t need a handicapped room, and if you clean the room after we leave then allergies aren’t a problem either; it is unacceptable for you to keep us isolated from other customers. Ruby is very well behaved, and hasn’t barked EVER, or even sniffed in the direction of other customers.”
“Well, ma’am, we just need to be notified when a dog is here.”
“Yes sir, I can understand that, which is why I brought it to their attention when we checked in. Plus, I have now spoken to EVERY employee I’ve seen since arriving here. I’m not sure who else I should have notified. I have to say, I understand that you feel you are just doing your job, and I appreciate that you are trying to be as nice as possible, but I am shocked by how we’ve been treated since we got here. The lack of training, education, and courtesy is completely ridiculous, and I will be contacting the manager and corporate offices. This should not be happening.”
“Well, as long as you have your ID cards you’re fine ma’am.” And with that he walks away.
I’m not overreacting, am I? This was completely harassment in my book. I am glad we have the law on our side, however, I am also a firm believer that I have a personal responsiblity as a service dog handler to be respectful of the public places we enter. I do not believe a service dog should be allowed in public if it is unruly, dirty, or disruptive. If you’ve ever met Ruby, you KNOW she is completely the opposite of those things. She is quite possibly the least imposing dog EVER. I feel I’d done all I could have done to be respectful. I’d cleaned up after Ruby when I’d taken her outside, announced her when the receptionist didn’t notice her, gone straight to our room…we didn’t even go to the breakfast area – even though that SHOULD have been ok. Ruby was clean, on-leash, and completely obedient at all times. However, we were harassed by the staff the entire time we were there. This should not have happened and I will be contacting the management at the Baymont Inn & Suites.
If any of you feel the need to express your disappointment in how this was handled, and help me educate them so that it doesn’t happen to other service dog teams in the future, the manager, Sherdonna Miller’s email address is email@example.com. The address of the hotel is Baymont Inn & Suites Jackson, 5709 I-55 North, Jackson, MS 39206.
*I use quotes to document our conversations, and made every effort to remember exactly what was said, however I wasn’t taking notes. NOTHING quoted is fabricated, but it is possible I have the wording a bit wrong. This is still exactly how it went down, though…