A bill making its way through the Legislature may prevent situations like the one Monday night in which a young veteran was arrested at a Bonita Springs hotel after he, his family and his service dog were denied lodging.
Jason White, 34, was arrested at the Best Western following a dispute with the hotel manager and staff over his service dog, Camo. He was charged with battery and destruction of property, the Lee County sheriff’s report said, after he kicked and cracked a television and shoved the hotel manager, Vinit “Vinnie” Patel.
Carol Borden of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, which provided Camo to White, said House Bill 71 would cover issues like this one. The bill would require public accommodation to permit use of service animals by those with disabilities and revises penalties for those who interfere with that use.
White suffered a traumatic brain injury and spinal wounds while serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in 2012 when a 200-pound improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. The Wyoming, Mich., resident said he has been on anxiety medication and has been helped greatly by Camo.
The dog was originally trained in a program to aid veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder at St. Matthew’s House in Naples and was transferred to the Whites on Feb. 13. The family is in Southwest Florida to complete training for the 2-year-old German shepherd, who is set to graduate from training Saturday.
Problems began after White, his wife, Danielle, 30, and their daughter, Savannah, 2, checked in Monday night. White said he brought Camo in later and saw nobody at the front desk. Within minutes of entering their room, the dog ate something off the floor, White said, and started vomiting, frothing at the mouth and having hallucinations.
When White went to the front desk to seek help, he said Patel became irate about the dog and asked the family to leave. White called the sheriff’s office when Patel was adamant that the family leave the hotel despite the dog being clearly marked with a black service dog vest.