Jhon Alzate tragically lost his eyesight in a car accident 30 years ago. Over the past 16 years, he has relied on highly trained service dogs to help him navigate his everyday life. Last weekend, Alzate visited the Kemah, Texas Boardwalk with his family, friends, and his current guide dog, King. But their evening of fun was derailed when a park employee refused to allow the service animal to board the train ride.
King is a 4-year-old Yellow Labrador and certified guide dog. Alzate told ABC 13:
“This one is not just a dog. It’s a seeing-eye dog and it’s my form of mobility.”
The Kemah Boardwalk is considered a dog-friendly tourist spot, but Alzate was informed that they do not allow dogs on the train ride that circles the park – even service animals.
Legal Analyst Joel Androphy said the policy violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, and pointed out that Hermann Park in Houston has a similar public amusement-style train that allows service dogs to ride.
“That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. First of all a service animal isn’t any animal,” Androphy said. “It’s not supposed to be an issue. You’re just supposed to allow the person on the train. It’s not like this is a roller coaster ride where it’s dangerous.”
Alzate captured a video of his discussions with workers, managers, and Kemah police. He insisted he had the right to ride the train with King – to no avail.
Alzate was given a refund for the ride, but he does not plan on letting the issue drop. He described his experience as “embarrassing and humiliating,” and has since contacted the state attorney general’s office in an effort to protect other citizens with disabilities from facing the same situation.
Keith Beitler, COO of Landry’s Amusement Division, issued a statement regarding the incident:
“We value all our guests with disabilities, and service animals are welcomed throughout the Kemah Boardwalk. Due to the nature of some attractions, service animals are restricted from riding our rides for their own protection and safety, as well as the safety of other guests. Our staff is trained to follow ride manufacturer guidelines and established policies when operating all rides, and adhered to such policy. As a very reasonable alternative, and consistent with policies similar to other major theme parks, we offered a swap procedure where the service animal stays with either a member of the guest’s party or a Kemah Boardwalk employee while the guest safely enjoys the ride. Without hesitation, we extended our standard swap procedure so the Guest and his family could enjoy the ride together.”
What do you think about Mr. Alzate and King’s treatment by Kemah Boardwalk? Should service animals be permitted anywhere their handlers are, or should companies reserve the right to deny access to dogs for safety reasons? Let us know in the comments!
H/T to ABC 13