KEMAH, Texas (KTRK) --If you look up dog-friendly tourist spots, Kemah Boardwalk is among them. But one local man has a different take after a visit there this past weekend.
Jhon Alzate lost his sight in a car accident 30 years ago. For the last 16 years, he's relied on dogs to help him live like everyone else.
"This one is not just a dog," he said. "It's a seeing-eye dog and it's my form of mobility."
His current dog is a yellow Lab named King.
The 4-year-old yellow lab is a certified guide dog and constant companion for Alzate.
"I've been in different countries with King," he said. "I've been in Colombia. I've been in Canada."
But this past weekend, King was sidelined.
Alzate was at Kemah Boardwalk with his family and friends. He wanted to take his daughter on the train ride that circles the park. It didn't happen because an employee told him King couldn't ride.
"He said our rules are that we don't allow dogs on trains," said Alzate.
He shared with ABC13 video of his discussions with workers, managers, and even Kemah police during which he insisted he had the right to ride the train with King.
Still, he wasn't allowed to ride.
Kemah gave him back his money and through Keith Beitler, COO of Landry's Amusement Division, issued a statement to Eyewitness News about refusing to let King, a service dog, on the train.
"We value all our guests with disabilities, and service animals are welcomed throughout the Kemah Boardwalk. Due to the nature of some attractions, service animals are restricted from riding our rides for their own protection and safety, as well as the safety of other guests. Our staff is trained to follow ride manufacturer guidelines and established policies when operating all rides, and adhered to such policy. As a very reasonable alternative, and consistent with policies similar to other major theme parks, we offered a swap procedure where the service animal stays with either a member of the guest's party or a Kemah Boardwalk employee while the guest safely enjoys the ride. Without hesitation, we extended our standard swap procedure so the Guest and his family could enjoy the ride together."
KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy said the policy is wrong and King, along with any legitimate, trained service dog should be allowed on the train. It's covered by the American With Disabilities Act.
"That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. First of all a service animal isn't any animal," said Androphy. "It's not supposed to be an issue. You're just supposed to allow the person on the train. It's not like this is a roller coaster ride where it's dangerous."
For example, Hermann Park has a similar public amusement-style train, but it allows for service dogs. The policy is written online.
Alzate said that's how it should be.
"That was a very embarrassing, humiliating situation I had with Kemah and I don't want anybody else to go through this situation again," he said.
Alzate has already contacted the state's attorney general's office. He's getting help from a guide dog advocate. He also has the option of complaining to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
If you think you've experienced a violation of the American Disabilities Act, you can find more information from the Department of Justice or the Texas State Attorney General.
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