A U.S. Army veteran visiting from Denver plans to file a complaint against the Western Lodge because the veteran said the motel owner refused to accommodate his service dog.

Photo by Matt Stensland

A U.S. Army veteran visiting from Denver plans to file a complaint against the Western Lodge because the veteran said the motel owner refused to accommodate his service dog.

Veteran alleges discrimination by Steamboat Springs motel owner

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— After a poor guest experience at a downtown budget motel, a disabled U.S. Army veteran who thinks he was discriminated against plans to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Steamboat Springs Police Department got involved after Joseph Metzger got into an argument Saturday with the owner of the Western Lodge motel. Metzger reported the motel owner, Peter Guler, refused to let his German shepherd service dog named Ruud stay with him at the hotel, and at one point, Guler demanded a $1,000 deposit to have the dog stay at the motel, Metzger said.

“It was just a hassle that we didn’t need,” Metzger said. “We came here to hang out.”

Police officer Evan Driscoll thinks the “hassle” was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Metzger, a Denver resident, arrived in Steamboat on Saturday with his girlfriend and service dog for a weekend getaway at the hot springs. The 26-year-old has served four deployments in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. In 2007, he broke his back in an improvised explosive device attack and was injured by a hand grenade in 2009. Today, the wounded warrior suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has his working service dog Ruud for companionship and therapy.

Metzger was able to check in at the motel at about 2 p.m. without a problem.

“When we came I told them about the service dog,” Metzger said. “The one lady just took the information and gave us the key.”

Metzger was approached by Guler after checking in.

“He flipped out and gave us a whole bunch of trouble,” Metzger said. “He wanted me to give him extra money to stay there, and then he said he didn’t want us to stay.”

Guler refused to comment and hung up the telephone when reached Sunday evening.

Metzger said he showed the paperwork for Ruud along with proof of his military service, including purple heart license plates signifying he was wounded.

“He didn’t believe me that I was disabled and said that I look fine,” Metzger said.

When the situation escalated, Metzger called the police and Guler gave Metzger his money back.

“I didn’t want to give that guy my money after that anyway,” Metzger said. “If they forced him to let us stay there, I wasn’t going to stay there.”

Officer Driscoll told Metzger he suspected the incident was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, a federal law that local police do not have jurisdiction over, Driscoll said. Driscoll advised Metzger to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We’re definitely going to make sure we do a complaint,” Metzger said.

Driscoll said he returned to the motel later to give Guler information about the ADA as it relates to service dogs. According to its website, the Western Lodge has a “no pets” policy, but according to the ADA, service animals are not pets.

“The ADA requires you to modify your 'no pets' policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability,” ADA documentation states. “Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition to allowing a service animal to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets.”

After being told about Metzger’s incident, Routt County Veterans Affairs Officer Michael Condie found the incident upsetting, especially the part about Metzger being asked for a $1,000 security deposit.

“I think it’s a bunch of crap,” said Condie, who also is a disabled veteran that suffers from multiple sclerosis. Condie uses a Segway scooter to get around town, and per the ADA, Condie is allowed to use the scooter on city sidewalks.

Metzger was upset about the incident but he, his girlfriend and Ruud were able to get a room at another hotel in Steamboat that is pet friendly.

“Tomorrow we’ll be at the hot springs, and we’ll be fine,” Metzger said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

John St Pierre 1 year, 10 months ago

The City should invite back for Winter Carnival and give him a free ringside seat !!!!!

I would suggest Mr Guler re-examine who provides him with the safety and ability to live in this nation..... oh and get his checkbook ready......

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David Moore 1 year, 10 months ago

Good grief, with the service record alone, I would have been grateful to have such a decorated veteran in my motel, dog or no dog. Rules or not, bend a little for those providing you the freedom to complain in the first place. Many thanks to Mr. Metzger, you sir are a true American.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 10 months ago

Can I be added to the list of despicable local characters that thinks Mr Guler's actions are atrocious?

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john bailey 1 year, 10 months ago

as a son of a vet, i'll join this group too.knucklehead.

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 10 months ago

Volunteers to throw the first stone seem to be in abundance.

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Jim Steed 1 year, 10 months ago

Yes Fred there are. Do you have a problem with that? Why don't you bring a dump truck full of stones to his motel and we can all stone him.

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Jason Miller 1 year, 10 months ago

This is my experience with the owner.It happened several years ago.I had some friends come in from out of town and he tried to double billed them. He pretty did to them what happened to this couple. He tried to get every dime he could from them. The hotel in my opinion is a dump. When you walk into the lobby,it smells like you are in a ashtray. A little dog pee/poo might make the place smell better.

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mark hartless 1 year, 10 months ago

OK, I'll be the contrarian here.

I believe a property owner /manager should have the right to decide who comes on their property and at what price.

It also said this veteran had the dog for "companionship and therapy, rather than to help with a physical disability, in which case the dog was no more "therapudic" than mine.

This ADA crap harms more than it hurts.

Every veteran is not a "hero" any more than every fireman or mailman or school teacher. Some of them are real duds, and treating them like royalty on this blog when you've never even met them is the DEFINITION of "prejudice". Ditto for the hotel operator.

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John Fielding 1 year, 10 months ago

. There must be more to this story. Note that Peter has not given his version of events .If the animal had been leading a blind man there would not likely have been an incident. But the customer may well have been asked why a person with no apparent disability claimed ADA exemption from a policy.The answer may not have been persuasive. The customer may have been confrontational. We don't know.

If The customer had tried to bring the animal into a restaurant or supermarket, would he have been questioned? Is there an ADA identification card that certifies exemption from policies, like a handicapped parking permit?

I know Peter has dealt with a great deal of government interference in running a legitimate business in a reasonable manner. I also know he declines much potential business to avoid abuse of his facility. I would not be quick to judge the validity of his position.

.

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Jim Steed 1 year, 10 months ago

Guler had his chance to give his side of the story but hung up on the reporter. If he was being confrontational I do not think the cop would have returned to the motel with a copy of the LAW.

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Rick Pighini 1 year, 10 months ago

Anyone who knows Peter knows that this is par for the coarse. He is not a very nice person. I had the displeasure of working with him. He is a rude obnoxious screamer who is perinoid of all people, everyone wants what he has. I'm sure if you googled is establishment it would show similar discontent. His facility is run down and filthy. He still distributed the same towels that came with that motel and he still owes me for plowing his lot 4 years ago. His time will come without our help.

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John Fielding 1 year, 10 months ago

.

Whether Peter is an amiable person or not really misses the larger point. Can a person bring a dog into establishments that forbid them because they have a need for its companionship as therapy? If so, I want to bring mine.

What exactly are the parameters for determining this disability? In the case of guide dogs for the blind it is very clear, the person is greatly enhanced in functionality with the constant assistance from the animal. Is the threshold for PTSD that the person becomes just uneasy, or severely dysfunctional without the dog?

I support making public properties disabled accessible to a reasonable degree. But if we pursue this course too far we should build sidewalks in the wilderness areas and allow Segways and motorized wheelchairs there. That would benefit me, I was injured so badly I now have a handicapped parking permit. But I simply accept that there are places I can no longer go.

There is a suite of offices on the second level of the Sundance Plaza with no elevator. The stairs are long with no mid level landing, it is a challenge to me. It is impossible for one who is wheelchair bound. Should they be required to install an elevator?

I believe that an owner of a private property should not be compelled to create accommodations for all levels of disability as a condition of being open to the public. That is especially importance the definition of disability is continuing to expanded beyond reason.

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Matthew Stoddard 1 year, 10 months ago

John- Here's a link to the ADA about service animals. I've dealt with them in the lodging industry a few times. They are more specially trained to service & calm people from anxiety attacks due to Post Traumatic Stress than the average dog as a pet.

http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 10 months ago

Congratulations, Mr. Guler. You've managed to paint yourself as a world class miscreant in the eyes of everyone from granola munching lefties like John St Pierre to knuckle dragging right wingers like me. A breathtaking achievement requiring real talent. It's a talent reserved for drooling halfwits, but talent nonetheless. Well played, sir.

I encourage you to pursue an association with the Westboro Baptist Church, assuming you're not already a proud member. You're sure to find oodles of like-minded reprobates within their congregation.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 10 months ago

And paper, no need to delete Brian's above post. It is HUMOR. I know you missed it the first time. Notice how Brian is also referring to himself as a "knuckle dragging right winger". He is also using a silly stereotype to describe left wingers and is not suggesting it is factually accurate description.

And if the paper deleted Brian's original post because of comments directed at Mr Guler then delete all posts and then delete the article. The posts are hardly less fair than the article which included only one side of the story. If that was good enough for the article then why not for the posts?

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Lauren Walsh 1 year, 10 months ago

How people like this ended up in our town I will never know. Steamboat used to be a welcoming place, somewhere that no one seemed to have a key to their own house, kids were raised by everyone in town, and every local knew Puggs isn't really homeless. Unfortunately things have started to change, but one thing we all need to protect is our welcoming spirit. We are included on the wrong ski pass, are off the beaten path, and aren't a cheap vacation spot to always be bogged down with visitors. It looks like Mr Guler has forgotten that is his business and without them he would be out of the job. Perhaps it's time to push people like him out!

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John Fielding 1 year, 10 months ago

From the link Matthew provided:

"Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. "

(Individual training is not defined therein)

"When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task."

(No proof is required, nor can it be asked for!)

The regulations go on to stipulate no deposits of fees applicable to pets can be charged. This certainly seems to set up great potential for abuse of the exemption. I would assume in the all encompassing reach of federal regulations there are penalties prescribed for persons who claim disabilities without medical certification of whose dogs individual training does not meet a certain standard. Maybe.

As disturbed as I am about this type of regulation, I am more offended by a remark such as "Perhaps it's time to push people like him out!"

WOW

Tell me Lauren, who chooses who gets pushed out? And who does the pushing?

( Maybe we have the City buy an old motel?)

.

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mark hartless 1 year, 10 months ago

I seriously can not believe what I'm reading.

Because this man isn't like you people, or doesn't conform to YOUR desires and expectations you think that gives you or the community some authorith or excuse to deny his rights to exist, to operate as he chooses?

And MY GOD, Ms. Walsh. You talk out of both sides of your mouth. You lament how "Steamboat used to be a welcoming town". Then you turn right around and say "Perhaps it's time to push people like him out." So which is it, Ms Walsh? Do you want Steamboat to be "welcoming" or do you want it to be a town that "pushes people out"??? Or is the truth that you want the town populated only with people who conform to your ideals?

And that goes for the rest of you.

Perhaps this man has acted in ways he should be ashamed of, but I think you should be ashamed of yourselves as well.

And how do any of you know what really went on there?

This kind of thinking is how things like Waco happen. Demonizing people who are different than you, then "Pushing them out of town". Then "welcoming" the tanks from Ft Hood to BURN them out if they refuse to live and act like you think they should.

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 10 months ago

No need to push him anywhere. He's doing a fine job of stepping on his own crank without assistance from anyone. For those of us repelled by his conduct, he's on our respective $&!+ lists. Visiting friends & associates will be warned away from patronizing his business.

John Fielding: if there was evidence of an epidemic of fraudulent pet-boarding in fleabag motels via rampant abuse of the ADA, your hand-wringing might be compelling. But there's not, so it isn't.

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John Fielding 1 year, 10 months ago

.

It dos not need to be rampant, nor involve only low rent motels. Apparently you can check into any hotel, motel, B&B or whatever and claim you need your dog as it has been trained to assist you. The proprietor must then waive fees and deposits (and prohibitions) and may not ask for any kind of proof. The only reason abuse is not rampant is that these provisions are largely unknown.

Till now. .

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mark hartless 1 year, 10 months ago

The proprietor doesn't waive fees any more than corporations pay taxes.

Instead, they pass those costs on to the rest of us.

And the dog owner who is actually responsible for the wear-and-tear, the dog hair and dog poop clean-up, skates away laughing at the SUCKERS who bought their sob story, or who were forced BY LAW to carry THEIR burden and who end up spending the following night in a hotel room that smells like wet dog, thanks to the ADA.

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 10 months ago

And of course you guys have evidence of this abuse. Oh that's right - you don't need evidence, not when you can substitute antipathy for a piece of legislation you find objectionable. You don't like it; it is therefore a conduit for fraud. Which you can't document. And Mr. Metzger is a carpetbagger who came to town peddling a “sob story.” A liar, in other words. You could just as easily accuse him of rape, simply because he's equipped with the necessary genitalia. It's possible, so he's guilty until proven innocent. All of which makes Mr. Guler a libertarian hero (who voted for Ron Paul, no doubt). Clearly we need to replace the Carl Howelsen statue with one of Mr. Guler. The plaque could read “Behold Steamboat's Howard Roark.”

We're fortunate you gentlemen are here to set us straight.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 10 months ago

The ADA rules state the service dog must be housebroken and may be removed if not.

"Individually trained" does have a legal definition of being trained to behave properly in places of public accommodation.

The establishment is allowed to charge for any damage caused by the service animal.

It would also appear that fraudulently claiming a pet is a service animal is a violation of the ADA that risks significant penalties. While the business owner cannot investigate the legitimacy of the service animal, if the claimed service animal fails to behave properly then there would probably be reasonable suspicions allowing the police to investigate.

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John Fielding 1 year, 10 months ago

Brian, I don't have any evidence nor am I alleging abuse, nor setting anyone straight. I'm just saying the way this law is written it can easily be abused. And that many provisions of the ADA are great examples of the federal government over reaching its authority.

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 10 months ago

You & Mark are the ones leaping to Guler's defense; suggesting his meltdown was justified; that the "validity" of his actions be viewed sympathetically; that Guler was "avoid[ing] abuse" of his property via fraudulent manipulation or disregard of written law (sans evidence); that he and not Metzger is the aggrieved party (sans evidence); that Guler, not Metzger, has engaged in criminal conduct (sans evidence).

People cheat on their taxes, exceed the speed limit, rob liquor stores, pirate DVDs, steal candy bars, scam senior citizens and shoot up elementary schools. If the possibility of violators is the yardstick for measuring the utility of a given law, then we shouldn't bother legislating standards of conduct for any activity. In light of so many crimes routinely committed on a daily basis, it's interesting how your and Mark's outrageously outrageous outrage is so easily provoked by the off chance a Purple Heart recipient may have abused the ADA simply because the possibility exists. It's just as equitable to suggest that you and Mark are rapists because you're both equipped with the relevant tools and it is therefore possible for you to commit the crime. A ludicrous, egregious, and insulting suggestion. The mud you and Mark have slung in Mr. Metzger's direction is no less so.

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mark hartless 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm not leaping to anyones personal defense. I'm defending the concept of freedom of association and of property. Whether someone is a jerk or not should have no effect whatsoever on their rights to do what they wish, charge what they wish, and associate with whom they wish, on their own damned property.

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John Fielding 1 year, 10 months ago

.

Brian, you are seeing my responses differently than I had intended them if those are your conclusions. I have made absolutely no suggestion that Mr. Metzger is not legally qualified to take advantage of the provisions of the ADA, just as I am allowed to as demonstrated by the handicapped logo in my windshield.

I do think, in all fairness, one would have some understanding of a business owners frustration with a law that allows people to violate his policies and have fees waived without proving that they are legally entitled to that exemption.

Your point about laws and law breakers is hardly pertinent. Of course we are a nation of laws, we are not angels. But you will not need to look deeply into our massive legal code to find bad laws, wrong laws, and even illegal laws. The correction of these flaws in our legal system does not seem a high priority of the lawmakers.

But just as we need laws because we are not angels, we need proofs of applicability because we are not angels. My handicapped parking card, the license that allows you to drive, your vehicle insurance card, Peter's license to collect taxes, the ID one shows at the liquor store, our certifications are in evidence or required to be produced routinely. Claiming exemption from a law without having to demonstrate proof is virtually unheard of.

Peter is hardly one who would be considered a sympathetic figure. However if one knew the nature of the struggles he, like many business owners, has had with burdensome regulation and even targeted bureaucratic harassment there might be some understanding.

And lest we forget, the message from the founders of our Federal government is that the beast will grow and consume our liberties if not kept in check, that it is our right, nay our duty to resist.

This is probably not the case that will go to the Supreme court, and with a cantankerous old fleabag operator vs a decorated war veteran it would be a little inclined to prejudice. But some case probably will be heard and thenceforth persons claiming Mr, Metzgers exemption will be issued certifications. That will not give Peter more that a moral victory, he apparently broke the law as it exists today. He may only hope that the obscurity of the law and it's exceptional nature will incline the Judge to leniency.

.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 10 months ago

John,

I doubt the any court case by a business owner would have any success. The service animal is not considered to be a pet, but as a tool to help a disabled person. The law explicitly states the service animal must be trained and does not provide any exemption for damages caused. And it only applies to businesses, not individual citizens in their homes.

And the part about the business owner not being allowed to investigate the validity of the service animal is no different than private citizens not being allowed to investigate the validity of your handicapped parking logo. That doesn't create a huge loophole for fraud because citizens can report suspected fraud to the police and the police can investigate.

Nor is this some slippery slope situation. Handicapped people with highly trained service animals do not want people with pets to give service animals a bad name. Businesses whom have some political power, do not want to deal with pets. Business influence in the law can already be seen because they don't have to tolerate any failures in training of the service animal or absorb any damages caused by the service animal.

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John Fielding 1 year, 10 months ago

Scott, the court case is not by the business owner, it is against him.

And the validity of my HC parking permit has been substantiated, that is exactly what it is for, to remove any doubt as to its users claim of legal privilege. It is just what is needed for Mr. Metezr and others with his affliction. This incident would never have happened if it was already thus.

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John St Pierre 1 year, 10 months ago

curious how is it he is allowed to push his parking lot snow into the creek.. I thought this was against the clean water ordinances the city has?????

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