By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The attorney for a disabled veteran from Colorado is claiming that a Dubois motel is still not allowing service animals, even though in court filings the business said the animals are welcome.
Jonathan Martinis, a Virginia attorney representing Col. Victoria Miralda, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that Miralda’s legal team has found online reviews of the Chinook Winds that state the motel still does not allow service dogs, despite the motel’s legal team claiming otherwise in recent court filings.
Miralda filed a lawsuit against the Chinook Winds Motel earlier this year, alleging that someone purporting to be the motel’s owner would not let her stay at the motel last fall because she had a service dog, which she relies on for help with physical disabilities and mental health issues.
Martinis told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that Miralda’s legal team found examples on eight different travel websites about the Chinook Winds still not allowing service animals. A 54-page filing showing these examples from the websites was submitted to a U.S. District Court judge on July 15.
“Think about it: All of a sudden, after they’ve been sued, they’re saying that they accept service animals – in an affidavit to one judge, while trying to win the case,” Martinis said. “But, at the same time, they’re also saying, to everyone in American and beyond, on eight travel websites, that they don’t accept service animals.”
He asked what made more sense: whether the Winds’ owner has had a change or heart or the motel “got caught” demonstrating that it still does not allow service animals.
All of the travel websites have statements from a Chinook Winds official that states no service animals are allowed at the motel. It is not clear who made the posts, though.
Attorneys for Chinook Winds owner William Kovac claimed in court filings earlier this month that the blame fell on a former employee of the motel who did not like animals to begin with.
Miralda claims the motel employee violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Wyoming law when it refused to allow her to stay at the motel with her dog, Luna.
In particular, Luna helps Miralda going up and down stairs and dealing with anxiety stemming from PTSD her lawsuit said.
Miralda and a fellow female veteran attempted to stay at the hotel in September 2021 when returning from an event in Montana, the original lawsuit said. Miralda reserved a room for one night through the Expedia travel website, paying around $120 in advance.
When checking in, Miralda informed then-employee Patsy Meyer, who identified herself as the owner, that she had a service animal. Meyer said Luna could not stay in the room, as the motel did not allow pets, according to court documents.
When Miralda explained Luna was not a pet, but a service animal, Meyer reiterated the policy of no pets and no exceptions.
Since Meyer would not allow Miralda to stay with Luna, Miralda asked for a refund of her advance payment, but was denied, the lawsuit said.
“Chinook Winds put a disabled American veteran on the street, with nowhere to go, late at night,” Martinis said. “And now they’re trying to sweep it under the rug with some pretty words in an affidavit, while they broadcast ugliness and discrimination to us all.”
The Chinook Winds did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Friday.