In May I traveled back to Kentucky by car for my daughter's college graduation. I have a service dog, and during my stay at the Days Inn in St. Joseph, Mo., I was charged an additional fee for the dog. I contacted Days Inn customer service and indicated I felt the charge was illegal. They were not concerned and stated it was Days Inn policy to charge the fee, service animal or not. It was late, and we were all tired, so I stated I had no choice but to pay the fee, but was doing so in protest. It was a $10 or $15 fee; they did not itemize the fee on my bill, just added it into the cost of the room. Is it legal to charge disabled people an additional fee for having their service dogs in the room with them? I showed the hotel clerk the dog's certification; in fact, she needed a copy on file in case there was an emergency in the motel that night, so emergency personnel would be alerted that a service animal was on-site.
–Irene, Shoreline, Wash.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses, including hotels, are prohibited from charging their customers any kind of fee for bringing their service animals on to business premises. Wyndham Worldwide, which owns the Days Inn brand, confirms that it is their policy to fully comply with the ADA.
Now, there is an exception to the fee rule: A public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities a fee if a service animal causes any damage (like damaging furniture), so long as it is their standard practice to charge non-disabled customers for the same types of damages.
In other words, if they assume dogs do some sort of damage naturally, they might be able to get away with the fee. But if they don't allow non-service animals (pets), then obviously, their fee would be charged only to those with service animals.
Since this particular Days Inn does not allow pets, that means this fee would be paid only by those with disabilities, a clear violation of the letter and spirit of the ADA.
We checked in with Wyndham Hotel Group, which owns the Days Inn franchise, and they investigated the situation. Apparently this property’s general managing did charge for service animals early this year but immediately discontinued the practice when they learned that such a fee was inappropriate. The general manager confirmed that he will reimburse you, and, as a show of goodwill, will offer you a complimentary stay at any Days Inn hotel in the United States.
For more information on the ADA, visit www.ada.gov. If you wish to get more information about what to do if you think you spot an ADA violation, call the ADA hot line, toll-free, at 800-514-0301.