North Country Motel Settles Disability Case

Attorney General Spitzer today announced an agreement with a Clinton County motel under which the motel's owners will comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and not discriminate against guests with service animals.

"Service animals make life more liveable and productive for thousands of Americans every day," said Attorney General Spitzer. "This case is a reminder to all who own and operate places of public accommodation that they must honor the letter and spirit of the law that requires them to open their doors to patrons who rely on service animals."

Under an agreement signed today with the Attorney General's Office, the Golden Gate Beach Motel, 432 Margaret Street in Plattsburgh, must comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act by:

  • Not discriminating against guests who check in with service animals;
  • Training motel staff about the rights of the disabled with service animals;
  • Posting signs in the motel window saying "Service Animals Welcome," and,
  • Paying $1,000 for the cost of the investigation and restitution.

On December 3, 2003 Mark and Mariah Goodwin rented a room at the Golden Gate Beach Motel for one month. Mark Goodwin, who was in a full body brace, checked in with his service dog, "Zadie," who assists him in walking.

On December 15, the Goodwins were told by motel staff that the dog was not allowed and that they would have to get rid of the animal or move out if they insisted on keeping the animal. A letter from Mark Goodwin's physician stating that he was disabled and needed a service animal did not sway the motel's management, which left the Goodwins a telephone message on December 30 denying that the motel was subject to laws allowing service animals in accommodations to assist persons with disabilities.

The motel is owned by Dennis P. Fortin, Todd Fortin and Henry J. Fortin.

The Goodwins sought assistance from the North Country Center for Independence, a Plattsburgh-based organization which advocates for disabled individuals. At the recommendation of the center, the Goodwins filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Plattsburgh Regional Office, which investigated the case.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Glen Michaels in the Attorney General's Plattsburgh Regional Office under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Tanya Washington of the Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau.

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