A few weeks ago, while she was driving to her duty station at Lake Hefner, Oklahoma City police Staff Sgt. Lori Osborn heard a call come over her radio about a homeless family in trouble.
The call wasn’t a part of Osborn’s assignment that day, but she was close by, and something made her want to stop. So before she went back to the lake, Osborn stopped at a hotel near Interstate 44 and N May Avenue.
Although the stop wasn’t a part of Osborn’s normal duty, the family credits her with keeping a roof over their heads that night.
When Osborn got to the hotel, she found Mark and Kasaundra Ryan, and their two sons, Carter and Travis, in the parking lot.
The family was obviously upset, Osborn said. Mark explained to Osborn that the family had been homeless for several months, and that the Homeless Alliance had arranged for them to stay at the hotel for a few nights while they found more permanent housing.
The problem, he said, was that the hotel clerk turned the family away because of Kasaundra’s service dog, Markie. The dog helps Kasaundra with anxiety issues, keeping her collected and focused, she said.
Without a room for the night, Mark told Osborn the family would be spending the night in their car.
“I can’t even tell you how much that broke my heart,” Osborn said. “The thought of them staying in their car for the night — I just could not handle that.”
When the family was checking in to the hotel, a clerk asked to see paperwork proving Markie was a service animal, Mark said. When the family couldn’t produce any paperwork, the clerk denied the family a room, he said.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits hotel operators and other business owners from demanding proof that a dog is a service animal.
A hotel employee, who wouldn’t give his name, said the family was denied a room because Markie was barking loudly in the lobby while the family was checking in, not because he was a service animal.