Disabled Vet Says Wyoming Motel Wouldn’t Let Her Stay With Service Dog
A retired, decorated and disabled U.S. Army colonel has filed a federal lawsuit claiming a motel in Wyoming would not allow her to stay with her service dog.
According to the civil lawsuit filed in US District Court for Wyoming on Tuesday, US Army Col. Victoria Miralda (Ret.) had reserved and paid for a room at the Chinook Winds Motel in Dubois. When she arrived, she was allegedly denied service because the motel had a strict "no dogs" policy. Even after informing someone who identified herself as the motel's owner, Miralda was still denied service, according to the suit.
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the motel is required to allow guests to stay with their registered service animals.
"Plaintiff, Colonel Victoria Miralda (Ret.), is a decorated, disabled U.S. Army veteran who served her country with honor and distinction for 29 years. COL Miralda received numerous honors including two bronze stars for her service to the United States military and the humanitarian service medal," the suit states. "Her tours of duty overseas include deployments supporting: Operation Desert Storm; Operation Iraqi Freedom; Operation Enduring Freedom and Global War on Terrorism.
"As a result of injuries sustained while on active duty, COL Miralda has physical and mental health disabilities that cause limitations in major life areas. COL Miralda uses a specially trained and well-behaved service dog, Luna, to help her address the limitations caused by her disabilities."
The suit notes that the Chinook Winds advertises that it is subject to and in is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Further, the suit claims the motel has adopted a new "equally discriminatory policy" and now limits guests with dogs to the most expensive rooms at the motel and requires them to pay a surcharge with no exceptions for service animals."
According to the suit, Miralda sustained significant spinal injuries while serving as a paratrooper. She was medically boarded and discharged from the Army because of her disabilities.
Luna, Miralda's service dog, is trained to provide interventional contact. For example, Luna detects, intervenes and makes physical contact which in turn drops Miralda's heart rate, lowers her blood pressure and increases her sense of of well-being.
"When Luna senses COL Miralda's anxiety, she physically places herself on COL Miralda or will lick her or engage in other contact," the suit states. "In addition, COL Miralda has individually trained Luna to assist with her physical disabilities. Specifically, COL Miralda has trained Luna to assist her up or downstairs. Specifically, when COL Miralda needs to climb stairs, she signals Luna and Luna changes her usual walking pace to walk the stairs beside COL Miralda and provide a stabilizing balance."
According to the lawsuit, Miralda and Lt. Col. Brandy Moralez, who is also disabled, were traveling back from a Veterans Victory Alliance nonprofit ranch in Montana, helping prepare it to host disabled veterans and first responders.
As they wanted to travel home to Colorado via Yellowstone, they looked for hotels near the park and settled on the Chinook Winds the night of Sept. 27, 2021, and paid $120.75 in advance.
When they arrived, the hotel owner said Luna could not stay with them because the hotel did not allow pets. Even after Miralda produced paperwork identifying Luna as a service animal, she was refused and informed that if Luna came into the room she would be assessed a $200 charge.
The owner also refused to refund Miralda.
"Because the motel employee/owner would not allow COL Miralda and LTC Moralez — who was pregnant at the time — to stay at the motel with Luna, they were left with no place to stay, in a strange place, late at night," the suit states.
The lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount in compensation, but it does exceed $75,000.
The Chinook Winds Motel has not filed a response to the suit.