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Woman Forced to Evacuate for Harvey Kicked Out of Holiday Inn Because She Brought Her Two Cats Along

Hundreds of thousands of families are without homes and struggling to survive in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and it seems Holiday Inn isn’t budging on their “no-pets” policy, refusing to offer shelter to people who include pets as part of their family. Animal lovers around the country are already expressing outrage with the hotel chain after a Houston family were forced to take turns sitting in the family’s tiny Prius with their 3 large dogs that were not permitted inside.

That’s when we were alerted to the same thing happening to 69-year-old Sugar Land, Texas resident Cyndi Lombardi. She was evacuated from her home and found a room at the Holiday Inn Express in Wharton, Texas. When the manager realized she had her two cats in a carrier, she was unapologetically kicked out of her room and sent back out into the storm, her life – and the life of her two cats – put in serious danger.

Holiday Inn Express, Wharton, TX

I reached out to her for the details and were shocked by what she wrote back. The story is gut-wrenching, and best told in her own words. She describes how an event like this brings out the best and the worst in people. Here is her email in it’s entirety:

Cyndi’s neighborhood under water

Waiting out a tornado warning before the evacuation… photo credit: Meryl Veramonti

Hi Brooke:

I don’t usually write stuff like this, but I feel that in writing my story I can get some closure on the events of the scariest day in my life.

I live in Sugar Land, Texas, with my two loving  rescue cats, in a lovely upscale apartment complex.  My life is blessed and abundant, and I have a great job, and I’m healthy.

However, our families  barely survived the hurricane as their home in Sienna Plantation  was hit by a tornado, and then severe flooding leading to  mandatory evacuation.

We were told that the evacuation route was University Blvd to 59 south, to the 10 Spur and head west.

We all got in our vehicles with kids, pets, and limited luggage in a matter of minutes.

When you are told to evacuate quickly, you take the things that are most important.

For me those were  my documents,  cell phone, cash, credit cards, my two kitties,  a floating flash light, protein bar,  lip gloss and diet coke.

Oh, and cat food and litter.

I headed out and the roads were sometimes impassable, so I drove on grass and medians to get to 59 south.  It took hours for what would have normally been a 15 minute drive.

When I got to the 10 spur, I must have picked up debris and nails ,and my one tire went  totally flat.    Who gets a flat tire in a hurricane?   me!

The state trooper told me to turn around and head  further south on 59 to the closest gas station, but none were open.

It was pouring rain, high winds and no one in sight and getting dark.

I sat in my car clutching my kitties and prayed, when 2 good Samaritans came along  in a truck.   Prayers answered!

I sat in their truck  while they put on my spare tire in the torrential rains and high winds, and the kitties slept  in the carrier. 

I tried to give them cash but they wanted prayers, instead. 

I headed south on rt 59, to Wharton, Texas  and found a Holiday Inn Express, and parked.

I waited in the lobby,  praying for a cancellation , and finally got a room.

No towels, carpets wet, roof leaking, but I didn’t care,  as my plan was to just get a few hours’ sleep  and leave at day break and head west.

When the manager saw my cat carrier, she yelled and was very rude. Said I was being evicted, and being charged a $ 500.00 fine, also.

She was so mean, it shocked me, considering the hurricane usually brings out the kindness in people, not a mean streak.

I offered to pay extra, and keep the cats in the carrier as I had nowhere else to go.  I was tired, hungry, and water dripping off me, and shivering , and at that point felt the tears welling up.

The manager came to the room I had just entered, with some sort of “ goon “ , disguised as security.

I was shocked .  I asked if he was security, but he said no, he was just following the lady  manager.  Still can’t figure out why he was with her.

I’m 69 years old and certainly not the type that looks threatening, or needing an escort out the door. He may have been her “ friend”.

She could have said “ we’ll keep the carrier in the storage room while you get some sleep “

She could have said you can sit in the lobby with the carrier until the sun comes up.

Instead I was escorted out the door.

By then it was  pitch dark, pouring rain, roads flooding, rivers overflowing onto route 59 and I had nowhere to go.

I headed back up 59 north, with both windows open the whole way, and a “ get along tire “ on my car , mind you.

I clutched the steering wheel with my left hand, and the kitty carrier with my right hand the whole way.

My daughters took turns staying on the phone via blue tooth the whole way, so I could still talk on the phone, hands free.

That was a life saver.

It took hours on flooded roads, stopping so many times, and no lights or other cars in sight.

Every time I drove in the high water I prayed the car would not sink and that I could get out with the  kitties, via the windows I had left totally open, if I had to.

Hours later, I made it back to Sugar Land, and was able to get up Highway 6 back to my community.

I parked blocks away from the complex as the front was flooded and I carried the kitties in the carrier over my head to get back in my apartment.

Luckily, I live on the 3rd floor and it had not flooded, even though it was under mandatory evacuation.

Once inside, I sponge bathed the kitties, took a bath, we all ate,  and then collapsed on my bed around 3:30 am.

The next day I thought about it,  and  concluded  that the manager could have made some sort of compromise, due to the catastrophic situation.

Did the Holiday Inn Express, in Wharton, TX,  need to put my life , and my pets’ lives In such extreme danger, just so  the manager  could exert her authority and enforce the rules????

She could have let me sleep in the lobby for a few hours, instead of coming at me with some fake escort,  and escorting me out the door in torrential rains and high winds.

I’ll never forget her extreme rudeness as opposed to the extreme kindness from the two good Samaritans that changed my tire.

All I can say is that a catastrophic hurricane brings out the best in some people, and the worst in others.

As for me, I’ll never stay at a Holiday Inn express again, as long I live.

They can take their points and “ shove it “.

In the meantime, our Pet rescue group is busy making plans to help resume pet adoptions and fostering.

That’s my idea of bringing out the best during a bad situation.

Too bad Holiday Inn Express ,in Wharton Texas , could not have done better in a bad situation.

Shame on them!!!!!

Cyndi

 

Cyndi’s daughter Meryl elaborated, “I asked [my mother] to wait in the car while I tried to speak to them on the phone. I called the onsite manager first and she would not talk to me. Instead, I was told she “left” and that there was no one of authority for me to speak to. The young woman on the phone sympathized with us but had her hands tied by the authority of her manager. I was then able to locate the General Manager’s private cell phone and called him next. I pleaded and begged and cried for him to let my mom stay. He said, ‘Our hotel does not accommodate pets. Your mother can stay but the cats cannot,’ and then he hung up the phone on me.”

As for Cyndi, her daughter said, “My mom? She’s unstoppable. Already back to her old tricks, helping rescue pets in the wake of Harvey, working as much as she can without Wi-Fi and staying dry. She may be 69, but she has the spirit and energy of a 20 year old.”

Cyndi volunteers for a rescue organization called Mutts n Meows. The apartment community she lives in, Retreat at Riverstone, has turned their business office into a drop-off point for donations of pet supplies for Mutts n Meows.

UPDATE: In response to this story, a spokesperson with IHG, the conglomerate that owns Holiday Inn Express, reached out to us with the following:

We are very sorry that Ms. Lombardi and her cats had this experience, and we are in the process of trying to connect with her to personally express our apology. Providing the highest level of hospitality is at the core of everything we do and we simply fell well short of our expectation in this instance — no ifs, ands or buts about it.

A big thank you to CatingtonPost.com for bringing this matter to light because we were able to quickly identify and get in touch with the franchisee — who is now accommodating guests with pets. When these isolated issues occur, we work to expedite a resolution. We have also been hyper-proactive in communicating with our franchisees in the impacted areas to underscore the importance of accommodating guests with pets.

UPDATE 2: Cyndi reached out to us again to let us know she had spoken with Michael Torres, VP at IGH and described him as, “very kind and cordial on the phone, humble, and an animal lover, as well.” He offered her upgraded rooms, free stays, an reward points as an apology, but she asked for a modest donation to the rescue group she works with, Mutts n Meows instead. So, he immediately made a $1,000 donation into the rescue’s non-profit account. Cyndi said, “I thought that was very kind and generous. I’m so glad that something good came from my horrible experience.”

UPDATE 3:  An IHG Spokesperson contacted us once more to let us know that they are now requiring all their hotel brands in the areas affected by Harvey to allow pets free of charge. They made the following statement: “Many of IHG’s brands, including Hotel Indigo®, EVEN® Hotels, Staybridge Suites® and Candlewood Suites®, and many individual Holiday Inn Express® hotels, already are pet friendly. As IHG hotels continue to shelter individuals and families displaced by Hurricane Harvey, IHG has mandated that all its branded hotels in impacted and surrounding areas welcome pets free of charge during disasters. We have and continue to communicate this requirement to all hotels.”

42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Joan Parker

    Aug 31, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    How rude and inhuman. If that was her family how would she have handled it. I can no comprehend how someone could evict someone from their room and make them go out in an unsafe situation. This I’d the second Holiday Inn that had no compassion. I would never stay at one again.

    • Janet

      Sep 1, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      I would never give Holiday Inn business again what a low thing to do they should rethink there policy that really isn’t the best way of doing business in the time of trouble .There ‘s know words to say only boycott everyone of these hotels hit them where it hurts MONEY MONEYthen maybe they will realize don’t treat people like this

    • Lin

      Sep 3, 2017 at 10:44 pm

      I am glad a donation was made, but the manager of that Holiday Inn should be fired immediately. As it is, I will never stay in another Holiday Inn. The behavior of the manager at the Wharton, TX location is inexcusable!!

  2. Portia Bashsm

    Aug 31, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Holiday Inn Express you should be a shame for not letting that woman and her 2 cats stay. You had put her and 2 cats in danger. I will never stay at your hotel when I come TEXAS

  3. Lyn

    Aug 31, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    I thought that during emergencies it was a law that hotels etc had to allow pets to come with tbeir owners to shelter or hotels.

    • Betty

      Aug 31, 2017 at 8:18 pm

      nope no hotel is forced to bring in animals

  4. Lisa

    Aug 31, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    I will never stay at a Holiday Inn property again – that was totally uncalled for!!!

    • Anna

      Aug 31, 2017 at 8:20 pm

      what made it worse was that the woman was not honest about the cats…She did not tell the hotel about them…She just tried to sneak them in anyway and it pissed them off

      • Mystre

        Aug 31, 2017 at 8:33 pm

        Eat a bag of dicks, Anna. You’re worse than that manager, which takes a lot

      • Kat

        Aug 31, 2017 at 8:48 pm

        OMG, you are pathetic!

      • Christine P

        Aug 31, 2017 at 11:51 pm

        How does one even ‘sneak’ a pet carrier into a hotel and room? Carriers don’t look like luggage. It would have been pretty obvious that she had pets.

        • Lisa

          Sep 1, 2017 at 1:39 am

          The story said she waited in the lobby for a cancellation so I hardly think she was sneaking them anywhere. The carrier was in plain sight. Smh. I just dont understand mean spirited people.

      • Rita

        Sep 1, 2017 at 12:53 pm

        This seems like a ridiculous statement with no basis in fact.

      • Nita

        Sep 4, 2017 at 12:03 pm

        Anna who, in a million years, would think that bringing pets would be an issue during a flood?

  5. JelloSoup

    Aug 31, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    Did the author of this article reach out to the manager at this hotel or the Holiday Inn Express to get their side of the story?

    • Kat

      Aug 31, 2017 at 8:45 pm

      OMG, what difference does that make??? During a crisis like this, there is no excuse for that!

  6. anne

    Aug 31, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    I am SOOO done with Holiday Inn, I will never stay with them again ! ! This is inexcusable in these dire circumstances !!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Betty

    Aug 31, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    It’s a very difficult situation. Since they were in a crate most any shelter would have allowed them in… Truth is, the further south you go the harder it becomes to get any hotel that will allow in an animal. Some for an extra $20 per night will allow in a small dog… ONLY SOME. I can see both sides… Sadly there has been so so much damage done to hotels, etc by animals… ON the flip side. I have stopped for the night at a hotel before and gotten a room that was beautiful But FULL of fleas… OMG that is a horrible experience. and it’s happened more than once, I rented a home on the ocean a couple yrs ago, $5,000 per wk in early Oct… damn place had fleas..OMG no refund, you get no other arrangements, they can’t put you up anywhere else,,,, you can leave if you want and loose all your $. An exterminator was sent out to get rid of them THE NEXT WEEK…after my trip was over… I spent a good bit trying to kill off some of them myself. It was horrible… Once the person checks out… it’s the hotel that is stuck with the damage… 2 older kitties weren’t likely to do damage… but 3 larger dogs? oh yes, they could and they were not crated. ;o(.It’s difficult on both sides…

    • Mary

      Aug 31, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      SERIOUSLY??
      It WAS in the aftermath from a hurricane, the storm was still going on. The hotel roof was leaking and the rugs wet. They sent her back out with no regard for her safety..
      In circumstances such as these, peoples lives should trump the rules of the hotel, or the common sense of the manager should have kicked in, hope they loose their job!
      So caring of you to excuse the managers actions because animals could have fleas.
      So sorry about your $5,000 a week vacation by the ocean, lucky for you it wasn’t bedbugs (by the way, carried by humans)

  8. Alyce

    Aug 31, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    Will never stay in a Holiday Inn EVER AGAIN.

  9. Angie

    Aug 31, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    I live in Texas and I will NEVER stay in aHoliday Inn ever!! That’s a shame. A catastrophe and you can make an exception. God forbid your ever in an emergency situation and no one helps you.

    • Deborha Guerrero

      Sep 1, 2017 at 1:50 am

      I will never stay at holiday inn again

  10. Stef Michaels

    Aug 31, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    Hi Everyone, Since I have worked with Holiday Inn corporate before, I reached out to find out what is happening. The VP of Communications took the time to chat with me. He was very apologetic, made no excuses, and is in the process of trying to get a hold of the women with the two cats. Here is what he sent me to share with you. “We are very sorry that Ms. Lombardi and her cats had this experience, and we are in the process of trying to connect with her to personally express our apology. Providing the highest level of hospitality is at the core of everything we do and we simply fell well short of our expectation in this instance — no ifs, ands or buts about it.

    A big thank you to CatingtonPost.com for bringing this matter to light because we were able to quickly get in touch with the franchisee — who is now accommodating guests with pets. When these isolated issues occur, we work to expedite a resolution. We have also been hyper-proactive in communicating with our franchisees in the impacted areas to underscore the importance of accommodating guests with pets.” VP Communications of IHG of America.

    • Trudy

      Aug 31, 2017 at 9:52 pm

      I looked & the Holiday Inn Express in that town had a Facebook page. I was going to comment on it, but wanted to be sure the town had only one hotel by that name. Anyone know?

    • Brenda Baldwin

      Sep 4, 2017 at 2:12 am

      You shouldn’t have left a senior itizen leave nor should the animals. That is inhumane

  11. Diane Felci

    Aug 31, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    Shame on Holiday Inn they should go broke, this was a emergency!

  12. emily brockman

    Aug 31, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    This is why we love red Roof Inn..They allow pets (at least in Myrtle Beach SC does) They even allowed monkeys caged.

  13. Ashley

    Aug 31, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    This woman could have died being forced out into the hurricane. There is NO EXCUSE for the manager’s behavior. My family does a lot of traveling and I will assure none of them EVER stay at ANY Holiday Inn. There is nothing they can do to make up for this disgraceful behavior. Hopefully the employees involved will be fired!

  14. Linda Rusch

    Sep 1, 2017 at 12:04 am

    I can understand someone not allowing pets if this was some kind of vacation and the person didn’t ask ahead of time. But a friggin hurricane?? I will NEVER stay at the Holiday Inn again. I always thought highly of them and had used them in the past but I have cats and this poor woman could have died in the weather with her pets. For ANY manager to refuse her refuge when she was PAYING for the room is totally unconsciounable. I hope that Holiday Inn loses business over this. Every pet lover should boycott their hotels. I also hope the manager who put this woman out in the rain storm again gets fired without pay. HORRIBLE HORRIBLE TREATMENT TO AN OLDER LADY AND HER CATS WHO WERE IN CARRIERS. I stayed for 8 months at a Red Roof Inn with my pets and had NO PROBLEM when I was homeless and needed a room to stay at. I guess HOliday Inn thinks they are too good to help people.

  15. American Only

    Sep 1, 2017 at 1:35 am

    This Holiday Inn must have been run by Non Americans, that’s been my experience with them. I had an experience in Ft. Lauderdale, FL once, will never stay at one again! I felt like I was in a 3rd World Country!!!!!!!

    • Maggie

      Sep 1, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      I agree. I just drove across the country and can assure you that:
      a) Holiday Inn Express is franchised, and the individual sites make their own decisions
      b) the majority are owned by people from India, many from the Patel family
      c) I had the misfortune of staying at one as well, because it was the only place available at when I got tired from driving at 2 AM. No time for details, but it was frightening.

      • Maggie

        Sep 1, 2017 at 8:15 pm

        I found out the owner’s name: Vic Desai. Please feel free to phone the hotel – contact info readily available if you google.

  16. Lisa

    Sep 1, 2017 at 1:46 am

    I travel a lot for work and leisure. I will NEVER stay at another Holiday Inn after this. This is horrible. I refuse to give my money to a company that has such a complete disregard for someone’s well being. Where is their compassion? She wasnt on vacation, it was a friggin Cat 4 hurricane! I hope every animal lover and advocate refuses to stay there and shuts them down. Smh.

  17. Victoria

    Sep 1, 2017 at 2:07 am

    As horrible as this is, I think I’m seeing something else….that extra charge of $500 for being thrown out??? After she waited, my guess is someone else was willing to pay more money for the room and the manager was greedy enough to go for it. The lady sat in the lobby with the cats, so they weren’t a surprise, they charged her for the room, then fined her for the room, if the charges are on her credit card, then she should see her bank and get them reversed.

  18. Tracey McTague

    Sep 1, 2017 at 9:56 am

    Holiday Inn, this is beyond unforgivable. I’m afraid you will have to do much, much more than simply apologize to this lady for putting her in such danger. I am a longtime Holiday Inn customer. Make it right with the Houston community, and in a big way. Then tell me what you have done, and I will come back to you. Sincerely, Tracey McTague, San Jose, California

  19. Debbi

    Sep 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    BOYCOTT HOLIDAY INN! Let’s show them as pet lovers that what they did was unforgivable considering the circumstances. they need to see the power of people and animals and shut them down.

  20. Linda Berman

    Sep 1, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    I stayed at a Hoilday Inn Express after Katrina. It was in Janesville Wisconsin. I was heading back down to New Orleans and my van broke down. I had my son with me along with my 3 dogs. We checked into the room and called a tow truck. When the tow truck arrived, I went out to talk to the driver. One of my dogs started barking because I left the room. My son stayed there with the dogs but couldn’t keep her quite. Someone in the hallway called the front desk and said they were afraid of dogs and felt unsafe with a dog in the hotel. They threatened to kick us out. They knew my van had just been towed. They knew we were Katrina evacuees. I got a bit upset and asked ” where the hell am I supposed to go?” After I had a bit of a meltdown they said I could stay but if the dog barked again we would have to leave. I contacted their home office after I got home. I never heard back from them. I vowed to never stay at any Holiday Inn ever again. They just didn’t care. That hotel was dirty and there were lots of suspicious looking people there. It’s not like they are nice hotels.

  21. Jan Fredericks

    Sep 4, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Just found out that what they do (did) to kick out people during a disaster is against the law.

  22. Jan Fredericks

    Sep 4, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    It’s against the law to kick people out during a disaster because of their animals.

  23. Stephanie Kilian

    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    This horrible customer service experience needs to be followed up on, with criminal charges against the business, and people involved. A check and an apology is hardly acceptable, because it could happen again, and again. Make CEO of IHG held accountable for the actions of staff at IHG.

  24. Nos

    Sep 5, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Do not leave, the Motel has to go through an eviction process. That can take six months. The Sheriff will not put you out until a Court order.

  25. Pingback: What are the Best Cat Friendly Hotel Chains? - Wildernesscat

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