The Justice Department on Wednesday announced settlement agreements with two hotels under the Americans with Disabilities Act to “protect and advance” equal access for veterans with disabilities who use service dogs. One of these hotels is located in Hampton Roads.
The settlement comes after two separate cases in which desk clerks allegedly refused to honor hotel reservations from veterans who had service dogs with them.
Under the agreements — one with the Landmark Hotel Group, which manages the Holiday Inn Express in Hampton, Virginia. and one with Deerfield Inn and Suites in Gadsden, Alabama — the hotels will adopt service dog policies and pay money damages to two veterans following separate alleged incidents involving service dogs.
According to the Landmark Hotel Group’s website, it manages 13 hotels that have nearly 1,400 guest rooms currently under management.
Some of the properties that the Landmark Hotel Group manages in Hampton Roads and the Outer Banks include Hilton Garden Inn, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Hyatt Place, Holiday Inn Express, Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge Suites, Country Inn & Suites, Comfort Suites and Comfort Inn.
“Individuals with disabilities, including veterans who have sacrificed for our country, have a right under federal law to the equal enjoyment of the services that a public accommodation provides to the public,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said in a news release Wednesday.
“The Civil Rights Division is committed to ensuring equal access for our veterans, and we commend these businesses — the Deerfield Inn & Suites and the Landmark Hotel Group — for acknowledging their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and agreeing to implement policies and practices to ensure equal access for individuals who use service dogs,” he added.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, public accommodations — such as hotels — generally have to make modifications to their policies to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. Service dogs are generally allowed to go where the public is allowed to within a public accommodation.
The ADA defines service animals as dogs individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Tasks can range from calming a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder to retrieving keys from a hook on the wall.