Sunday, September 7, 2014

Staying in a Hotel with Your Service Dog

I love to travel and my service dog Isaac makes it easier for me to do so. With his help, I can be independent and travel without a human traveling companion. Within the U.S., hotels are required to allow people with disabilities to bring service dogs with them, even if they don’t normally allow pets, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you’re traveling outside the U.S., different laws apply and you should check on the laws in the area to which you’ll be traveling well in advance of your trip.

Making Reservations

You are not required to mention that fact that you will be bringing your service dog when making a reservation at a hotel. Some people prefer to mention it, hoping that will prevent access disputes or confusion when checking in. I personally don’t bother to mention it, myself, for a couple of reasons. First, I’m not required to by law and I don’t want hotel employees to think service dog owners are supposed to notify them in advance. Second, I am skeptical that it will prevent access disputes or confusion when checking in because even if the employee I speak to when making my reservation knows they must allow a service dog even if they don’t normally allow pets, the employee working at the desk when I check in may not know that.

“No Pets” Policies

Some hotels have “no pets” policies. However, service dogs are not considered pets. Even if hotels do not allow pets, they must allow service dogs in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 
Employees are allowed to ask if a dog is a service dog and they are also allowed to ask what tasks a service dog is trained to perform, just as employees of any other business may ask those questions of a service dog owner. They are not permitted to ask any other questions under the ADA. They are not permitted to ask you to have your dog demonstrate the tasks he is trained to perform and they are not permitted to ask to see certification or proof that your dog is in fact a service dog.  

They are not permitted to require your dog to wear a special service dog vest, either, although I typically put my dog’s vest on him when walking through a hotel that does not allow pets just to make it clear why he is allowed there. I think it cuts down on questions from both employees and other hotel guests.

Extra “Pet Fees”

Hotels that allow pets often charge an extra “pet fee.” Hotels cannot charge an extra fee for service dogs, however, even if they normally charge them for pets. If your dog damages anything in the hotel, though, or makes a mess that requires extra cleaning (such as if he pees on the carpet in your hotel room), you can be charged for that.

Resolving Access Disputes

If hotel staff is not aware that they must allow service dogs to stay in the hotel with disabled owners, even if they do not normally allow pets, and that they cannot charge an extra pet fee for service dogs, you can provide them with a copy of the ADA BusinessBrief, a document I carry in the pocket of my service dog’s vest at all times. You can also suggest they call the ADA Information Hotline at 800-514-0301 if they have any questions or want additional information.

Being a Good Guest 

Be a good guest when staying at a hotel with your service dog. Ask if there is a designated area where you should toilet your dog and make sure to pick up after him. Take a blanket for him to lie on to prevent getting a lot of hair on the carpet or bed. If he’s a messy eater, take a mat or towel to put under his food dish.

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