Service dogs provide invaluable support to the humans they help. Sometimes, they guide those with visual impairments. Other times they assist people with difficulty walking. And for some, service dogs provide emotional aid. This is especially important to those who protected the United States’ freedom: our veteran soldiers.
An American Hero
Nicholas “Nic” Day served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 13 years, including four deployments overseas. That time spent defending the United States left a lasting impact on Nic, especially his physical and emotional well-being.
In 2008, doctors diagnosed Nic with PTSD (a mental health condition classified as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act – ADA). During that time he was on active duty.
The disorder affects Nic in many ways. In particular, it causes Nic to suffer from panic attacks when he’s in large crowds or unfamiliar places. He tried several different treatment options, but they were all uneffective in combating this life altering disorder. Someone finally recommended Nic consider a service dog to help him through his difficulties. He agreed.
“I [went] from medication to meditation and nothing was working. I figured let’s try a service dog and let’s see how that works,” Nic told Yahoo Lifestyle.
In fact, the brave Marine decided to train his own service dog, an Akita named Atlas. When Nic shows signs of distress, Atlas paws at him or jumps to give him a hug. The intelligent Akita also stays close to Nic so no one startles him from behind.
“As a Marine, we’ve always had someone there to watch our backs and are always working with other Marines. Having Atlas at my side all the time gives me the same sense of security,” Nic said.
According to the ADA, Atlas should be allowed to travel with Nic everywhere. Unfortunately, one hotel failed to abide by the ADA regulations.
‘PTSD Isn’t a Disability’
Lately, there has been an increasing number of emotional support dogs. Because of this, Nic told Yahoo he sometimes runs into issues with businesses allowing him to bring Atlas.
At a recent encounter in an Oregon hotel, the veteran told Yahoo his treatment and the treatment of his dog “exacerbated my PTSD.”
Nic and his wife Tina were traveling and planned to stop by Medford, Oregon to attend his nephew’s high school graduation. The couple made reservations at a Hampton Inn. Nic said they informed the hotel that they were bringing their service dogs, Ares and Atlas.
When they arrived at the hotel, the night manager questioned the couple about the dogs and their services. At first, the manager refused to allow the dogs in.
“The night manager said PTSD isn’t a disability and we don’t allow emotional support animals because we’re not pet-friendly. We educated her on ADA regulations and showed her that PTSD is an ADA certified condition,” Nic said.
Eventually, she allowed them to bring in their dogs. But, the next morning, the couple found their room keys de-activated. They could not re-enter their room.
“She said, ‘No, I have to go by our corporate policy.'” Nic said.
The Situation Escalates
Nic’s wife Tina even printed out the regulations on service dogs. She explained the last time Nic was refused service because of his dogs, he was put on suicide watch.
At this point, Nic said the general manager asked if they had a gun. “Tina responded, ‘We’re from Idaho — everyone has a gun,’” Nic explained.
Then, he said the manager took the response as a threat and called the police.
When officers arrived Nic told them they had a pistol properly secured in their vehicle. The officers found no criminal activity. However, the general manager wanted the couple to leave the premises.
“The police officers asked if we would comply and we said yes. Then they escorted us to our room so we could gather our stuff and leave,” Nic said.
The couple found a hotel nearby that would accommodate their service dogs. Unfortunately, the stressful exchange caused Nic migraines that made him unable to attend his nephew’s graduation.
“My goal is to educate not only the hotel but other businesses about the differences between an emotional support animal and service dogs,” Nic said.
He plans on filing a complaint with the ADA and Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries. The benefits of service dogs, especially to our veterans, is undeniable. We are truly sorry for the actions of the Hampton Inn employees and hope that hotel chain is held accountable for their actions. If you would like to express your concerns regarding the treatment of Nic or the company’s “policy” for service dogs, please contact Hampton Inn/Hilton Worldwide at 800-426-7866 (customer service) or 703-883-1000 (corporate headquarters).
Feature image c/o Ares Apollo Atlas Day Facebook
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