Hotel owner responds after reservations were canceled over service dog

Chip, the ADA service dog, was not allowed into a Baton Rouge hotel (Source: WAFB)
Chip, the ADA service dog, was not allowed into a Baton Rouge hotel (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A hotel owner responds to allegations that his employees refused to allow a family with an ADA service dog into their establishment.

Our news crew spoke to the owner of the hotel on the phone, and he claimed that the corporate office has not sent him anything.

"We have not received an email. They have no right. We have an agreement with them, and they have to give us a reason why they are terminating us," he said.

The owner says the whole incident was a mistake. He stated that they actually do have sign outside of the establishment saying that they allow service dogs. He also explained that the family's reservation was not rejected.

"We did not terminate the reservation. The people who made that reservation, themselves, terminated their reservation," he added.

The corporate office has released a statement saying they have restricted the hotel from using the Best Western name and the future association with the brand is to be determined.

Just two days after the story went viral, the corporate offices contacted WAFB and issued this response:

Best Western International requires each independently owned and operated hotel to comply with all federal, state and local laws and standards, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"). 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.

The statement was sent just before 1 p.m. Thursday. As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the Best Western signage is still up and not covered.

The North Carolina family booked a one-night hotel stay in Baton Rouge at the Best Western on Siegen Lane. They were told to go elsewhere because they were bringing their 13-year-old son's Golden Retriever along.

The dog, Chip, is a seizure response dog who is always around 13-year-old Beau, who is diagnosed with a rare type of epilepsy called Landau-Kleiffner Syndrome. Chip alerts the family when Beau is having a seizure.

Though the family is not required to alert hotels they have a service dog, because service dogs are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they gave the hotel a heads-up. That is when their reservation was refused.

"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," said Karen Vaughn, Beau's mother.

The front desk worker inside the hotel said she was aware of the law, but employees can't go against what the owner says.

Meanwhile, another Best Western hotel is feeling the effects of this incident.

A general manager, at another Best Western in Baton Rouge, says this incident has negatively affected their business. She says people have been confusing their College Drive location with the hotel on Siegen Lane, where the event actually took place. General Manager Jennifer Holmes says because of this incident, they have received some threatening phone calls.

"They said they were going to riot in front of our hotel," said Holmes. She pointed out that the Best Western hotels are privately owned.

Additionally, Karen Vaughn says the corporate office for the hotel did contact her, almost a week after the incident, and offered to honor her reservation.

"I've already booked with another hotel that's understanding and happy to follow the law. I don't want to go to a hotel where I have to force them to follow the law."

The front desk worker who said she was aware of the law but couldn't go against the owner's policies, has been fired. She says she was fired by the hotel owner for putting too much attention on the hotel and the owner.

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