WATCH: Army veteran with service dog kicked-out of Columbia hotel
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – An Army veteran with PTSD says he was kicked-out of a Columbia hotel because of his service dog. The hotel says he broke the rules, so they asked him to leave.
20-plus-year veteran Michael Greenberger brings his dog, Ginger, to hotels across the U.S. when he’s traveling for work. He was in Columbia this week shooting photographs at Fort Jackson.
“I take her into restaurants, stores, I’ve never, not once had an issue,” he said. Greenberger says he’s stayed at the Sleep Inn on East Exchange Boulevard multiple times. When he arrived early Monday morning, with Ginger, his son and a friend in tow, he says hotel staff demanded confirmation of his disability.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, staff members are only allowed to ask two questions: Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? And, what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? The law states they cannot ask about a person’s disability or require documentation.
“I showed them my military ID,” Greenberger said. “They know I’m a retired, disabled veteran, with a service dog and a letter from a doctor. Why they would choose to treat me like this, is beyond me.”
The hotel’s general manager Raj Sachania said staff follows procedure for every check-in, and beyond that, he has no comment. Greenberger said they cancelled the reservation, so he called the cops. As noted in a later incident report, Columbia Police resolved the situation and Greenberger was re-booked.
The next day, Greenberger said he left Ginger in the hotel room while he went to work outside at Fort Jackson. He said his son and friend returned to the room mid-way through the day.
“I was under the impression that any rational human would be okay with me leaving her inside, rather than outside, risking her life,” he said.
Shortly after he got back Monday night, he said, hotel staff knocked at his door with two police officers and a letter, asking him to leave. The general manager, who did not want to go on camera, told ABC Columbia they used security camera footage and key-card usage to determine that no one was in the room from 9 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Sachania said when he heard a dog barking, and no one responded when he called the room, he became worried for the safety of the dog and the guests. ADA guidelines require the handler be with the dog at all times. Greenberger said he’s aware of the rule, but thought Ginger would be safer in the room. In the incident report from CPD, Greenberger is noted by hotel staff as acting “aggressive.”
“I may have said a few words, but I did my best to control myself. Now, I was humiliated, completely upset. I could not understand why,” he said. Greenberger was reimbursed, and checked-in to a different hotel.
“Businesses should understand the law,” he said. “Especially hotels. They should understand that service animals are not pets. They are there to serve a purpose.”
Sleep Inn’s general manager said they know the law, and they stand by their decision.