Man’s best friend: Salisbury hotel raises questions over woman’s emotional support animal

Published 12:05 am Thursday, November 10, 2022

SALISBURY — A New Jersey woman checked into a room at a Salisbury hotel last Friday while in town for her grandmother’s 95th birthday. The stay turned ugly when management demanded that her service dog be removed from the property and they also summoned police.

April Nelson and her fiancé, Mike Miller, had hoped for a pleasant trip south from their home in Voorhees, N.J. Nelson has an emotional support animal named Paulie and made arrangements for him to accompany them.

“I called and made sure that there were no breed restrictions,” Nelson said.

She also confirmed that the weight limit per hotel policy was 75 pounds. Her dog is a Dogue De Bordeaux and weighs 73 pounds.

April Nelson and her emotional support animal Paulie

Believing everything was in order, Nelson and Miller arrived on Friday at the Home2Suites Hilton hotel on Jake Alexander Boulevard. They checked in before preparing to head out to the party that they traveled south to attend. Nelson indicated that she asked the front desk about leaving Paulie in the room and was instructed that she just needed to affix the “Do not disturb” sign on the door.

“So, we checked in, and I unpacked everything,” Nelson said. “I took my dog out. My fiance forgot his glasses in the car, came back upstairs, and got a phone call from the front desk. The girl said the manager wants your dog off this property right now.”

Nelson was perplexed and asked why. She was reportedly told that it was because the dog was a pit bull.

The dog owner informed the front desk that Paulie was not a pit bull but rather a Dogue De Bordeaux.

Paulie is a 73-pound Dogue de Bordeaux

Frank Ramirez, a corporate guest assistance supervisor with the hotel chain, confirmed that the policy does not restrict breeds.

According to Nelson, those at the front desk also informed her that the dog’s weight exceeded the hotel’s limit. When Nelson made her case that the dog was less than 75 pounds, she was instructed that the hotel has a 50-pound weight limit, which contrasted with what she was told when booking the room.

“You can’t have someone pay $450 for two nights and then get there from traveling eight hours and say, ‘We’ve changed the rules up on you,’ ” Nelson said.

Ramirez indicated that the company policy is 75 pounds, not 50 pounds.

“I went downstairs to talk to the manager because, obviously, now there’s an issue,” Nelson said. “So the manager saw me with my dog going outside. Instead of speaking to me, he chose to leave for the day. The (front desk) said he would not be available until Monday, so he wouldn’t even speak to me on the phone.”

The hotel manager, Demetrius White, declined to comment on the situation other than to say that he was not present. A corporate supervisor, Omar Adel, confirmed the company is investigating the matter.

The hotel proceeded to contact local law enforcement. When Salisbury police arrived, they met Nelson, who showed them her paperwork from the doctors confirming Paulie’s status as an emotional support animal.

A member of the Salisbury Police Department confirmed that officers were dispatched to the hotel, but no official report was filed.
Nelson said that after showing the officer the documents from her doctor, they informed her she was within her rights to have the dog with her.

Nelson didn’t have an alternative and stayed at the hotel throughout the weekend, but she never left the dog in her room unattended.

After the ordeal, she said she would just like to know that it won’t happen to someone else.