Veteran, local service dog turned away from hotel

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. -- Karl Fleming was just looking to do something fun at the request of his family, but it turned into a distressing situation when he and his service dog were turned away from a hotel.

Army veteran Fleming attended K9s for Warriors camp in Ponte Vedra Beach. He graduated with his service dog 'Kuchar' last year and moved on, ready to face the world. But Wednesday night he had a setback.

Fleming has a traumatic brain injury as a result of a rocket propelled grenade while he was serving in Afghanistan in 2011. He went to Panama City Beach with his dog, which he depends on, along with his parents and his roommate. He went looking for a hotel room at the Front Beach Inn.

Fleming said he was yelled at by the front desk clerk and told she had no vacancies when the sign out front read vacancy. Fleming said she later told police they had rooms.

''You have to produce papers sir! Get out of my lobby!" the receptionist can be heard saying in a loud voice toward his roommate who was recording the incident on his cell phone.

"I mean it was humiliating, for them to yell at me like that," said Fleming by phone from Panama City Beach. "She did not know her facts, she would not listen to me. The cops really didn't know the laws either. I am still so much on edge because of it because I have an anxiety disorder."

"I was horrified, I was mortified," said Shari Duval, President of K9s For Warriors.

Fleming immediately contacted Duval and Sandi Capra at K9s for Warriors who were saddened that he was denied his rights.

"He has some pending surgery coming up, actually several of them, and he was taking a little R&R so he could just take his mind off what he is about to go through. Well that ruined that," said Duval.

"Know the laws," said Capra, VP for Development and Communications at K9s For Warriors. "You can ask, 'Is this a service dog?' and you can ask 'what task does this dog perform to help your disability,' that's it. You can't ask for paperwork, you cannot ask for additional certification, none of that is required by federal law."

"It will take him days to recover from this," said Duval.

Flemings' fellow K9s for Warriors graduates are in constant contact with him right now helping him move on from the experience.

Duval says not all disabilities are seen, especially among veterans.

Her group tries to raise awareness so people and businesses will understand the rights of service dog owners.

"She (Kuchar) is everything to me", said Fleming. "She gets me out of bed every morning. She is the reason I get up and am able to go out and do stuff because she is there with me. I feel safe enough to go to Lowe's to get a hammer, things that other people take for granted. I can do it because she is there."

According to a police report, the desk clerk told police she felt threatened and they became verbally abusive. She told police she wanted them to leave so she could lock the door. Fleming said that did not happen, that he and his roommate remained calm and called police to come.

Fleming said police asked him to leave "They did not stand up for his rights either," said Duval.

If you want to help K9s for Warriors, visit the Operation Orion section of our website.


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