Vet with PTSD denied MN lodging because of service dog

The United States has been at war so long you’d think people would “get” the whole “support our troops” thing by now.

But in Willmar, Minn., there’s yet another story of a veteran with post traumatic stress disorder who was thrown out of a business because she had a service dog, the West Central Tribune reports today.

Sandy Gessler was visiting Willmar earlier this month when she was denied lodging at a motel because of its no-pet policy. She found another motel but had to pay extra, and the staff asked her to prove her dog is a service dog.

Both of those things are illegal under Minnesota law.

The ADA clearly states businesses are only allowed to ask two questions regarding a service animal — is the dog a service animal required because of a disability and what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.

Staff cannot ask for proof of a disability or ask for the dog to demonstrate a task. Service dogs do not have to be specially licensed or registered and the owners do not have to carry special papers on them.

In Gessler’s case, her disability isn’t visible from the outside. She is not blind or in a wheelchair.

“I deal with military post traumatic stress disorder,” Gessler said, who served 18 years in the armed forces and did tours of duty during the Iraq War. She suffers from extreme anxiety, depression and nightmares. In public she can find it hard to function, especially in unfamiliar places, such as a strange hotel room.

An executive with with the state’s lodging industry’s lobbyist group says people sometimes claim their dog is a service dog to get around a no-pets policy.

“When in doubt, accommodate the dog as a service dog,” Dan McElroy said.

Sandy Gessler says society still isn’t ready for the PTSD service dog.

Unfortunately, it’s had plenty of time to get ready.