complaint hearing | 

Couple who claim hotel axed booking over guide dog say they have 'never been treated so badly'

'The manager said he was cancelling my booking and did not want to hear any more about it. That’s exactly what he said to me'

Peter Doyle

A man who claims a hotel turned him and his girlfriend away after learning they were bringing a guide dog has told the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) he had “never in his life been treated so badly”.

Kevin Ryan told the hearing that he and his girlfriend, who is partially sighted and needs the guide dog for assistance, were booked to stay at the Kilkenny House Hotel back in November 2019, when he received notification that the booking was being cancelled because the hotel did not accept dogs and they would not be allowed to bring their “guide dog into the hotel”.

Mr Ryan was representing his girlfriend, Pamela Keogh – who had later made a complaint of discrimination against the hotel – at the WRC today.

He told WRC adjudication officer Andrew Heavey: “I phoned the hotel to explain, ‘this is a guide dog’. I was told by Mr Dore that my dog would upset his dog and other customers. And he was cancelling my booking and did not want to hear any more about it. That’s exactly what he said to me. Those were his words."

He said that he believes the manager of the hotel, Mr Dore, was “putting everyone with a disability in to the same box” by insisting they use “specially designated rooms” when staying there.

At a previous hearing back in January, the hotel’s solicitor, Mary Molloy, said guests with guide dogs could only be “accommodated in specific rooms that do not have carpets, that do not have stairs or other impediments, that are equally accessible and are located at ground-floor level”.

But today, Mr Ryan said the manager “never mentioned anything about rooms for people with disabilities” when cancelling the booking, and that he and his girlfriend had been the victims of discrimination.

“All he was concerned about was his own dog and other customers,” he continued.

“It seems to me he is putting everyone with a disability in to the same box. Are those rooms cheaper than the other rooms? I have never come across this in my life.

“Because you have a disability you have to go in that room because it has no carpets. Because you have a disability, you stay downstairs. To me, that alone is a discrimination.”

Ms Molloy told the hearing that rooms where guests had brought their animals with them required specialised cleaning afterwards “in order to let the room to the next occupant”.

“Would you accept that?” she asked Mr Ryan.

“No, I wouldn’t because I shed more than the dog,” he replied.

Mr Ryan also told the hearing that staff at another hotel, where the couple eventually stayed after their booking at the the Kilkenny House Hotel was cancelled, said they were surprised to learn of the “specially designated” rooms for people with guide dogs at that hotel.

“They never heard of such a thing, they said,” Mr Ryan said.

“I have never in my life been treated so badly as a customer. Never,” he continued.

“Not only are they discriminating against my girlfriend but I feel they are making me out to be a liar.

“And I really feel hurt today that I have been dragged through this again.”

Mr Heavey said a compensation amount of up to €15,000 could be available if the WRC upholds the complaint.

Ms Molloy told Mr Ryan that there had been “absolutely no intent from my client to discriminate” against him or Ms Keogh.

“It is unfortunate that you have perceived it as a discrimination,” she said, adding that ill-health had prevented Mr Dore from attending both hearings.

“But my client, in his letter to the WRC, has indicated that it never was his intention to cause you or your partner any stress and he is sad that that has evolved.”

A decision will be issued at a later date.

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