Autism support dog refused bus access for being a ‘pet’

Ryan King’s autism support dog Walter was initially refused access to a TransLink community shuttle on Sunday, despite the fact the BC Guide Dog-certified yellow lab had all the proper documentation as well as the signature blue vest. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Walter’s blue vest identifies him as an autism support dog. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Ryan King’s autism support dog Walter was initially refused access to a TransLink community shuttle on Sunday, despite the fact the BC Guide Dog-certified yellow lab had all the proper documentation as well as the signature blue vest. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Ryan King’s autism support dog Walter was initially refused access to a TransLink community shuttle on Sunday, despite the fact the BC Guide Dog-certified yellow lab had all the proper documentation as well as the signature blue vest. (Tracy Holmes photo)

A White Rock grandmother has lodged a complaint with TransLink after an incident with a driver that she says emphasizes the need for better awareness around the rights of accessibility afforded to service dogs.

Margaret Kay said she, her grandson Ryan King and his BC Guide Dog-certified yellow lab, Walter, tried to hop the westbound 361 community shuttle at Oxford Street and Marine Drive at 4:20 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 10), after Ryan became tired towards the end of their walk along the promenade. They wanted a two-block lift, to the Bay Street lot where Kay’s car was parked.

However, when the trio tried to board, the driver “said, ‘I can’t take your dog on the bus because he’s a pet,’” Kay said.

“I said, ‘He’s not a pet.’”

The dog has been support for 20-year-old King, who is autistic, for the past seven years, Kay said. When out and about with King and Kay, the gentle canine wears a blue vest that identifies him as an autism support dog, and both King and Kay carry documentation that identifies them as certified to have Walter with them anywhere they go.

READ MORE: Boy’s service dog bounced from B.C. trampoline park

READ MORE: Victoria veteran begs people to please not touch his service dog

Kay said despite showing that photo ID on Sunday, the shuttle driver remained adamant for 20 minutes that Walter wasn’t allowed.

“The shuttle doors didn’t open all the way,” King told Peace Arch News. The driver “didn’t want us on the bus.”

It wasn’t until after another passenger pointed out a notice on the back of the driver’s seat that states service animals are permitted, that things changed, Kay said. The driver got out of his seat to read the notice, then allowed the three to board. He didn’t continue along the route, however, until after spending another five minutes reviewing the documentation that was previously offered, Kay said.

Then, after Ryan pushed the button to signal he and Kay wanted the Bay Street stop, the driver commented, “all that for two stops?” she said.

“I think it’s important for people to be aware that service dogs do have public-access licence,” Kay said.

TransLink confirmed Tuesday that a complaint regarding the incident was received and that Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) “will be looking into what happened.”

PAN was also pointed to TransLink’s policy for service animals, which states certified assistance animals “are allowed on public transit at all times.” The policy adds that the animals must be harnessed and leashed, and passengers with them must be prepared to produce their Guide Animal Certificate.

Certification “increases public safety, raises training standards and improves public access for dog and handler teams,” according to the provincial Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.

The Act also stipulates that a guide-dog team, service-dog team or dog-in-training team “may, in the same manner as would an individual who is not a member of any of those teams, enter and use any place, accommodation, building or conveyance to which the public is invited or has access.”

A penalty of up to $3,000 can be levied for refusing a certified guide or service dog access. By the same token, falsely representing a dog as a guide or service dog can also result in a fine of up to $3,000.

Kay said incident is an opportunity to educate the public about the rights of service dogs and the individuals they are supporting. What she, King and Walter experienced Sunday was “not at all” acceptable, she said.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Federal minister to speak in Vernon

Greater Vernon Chamber welcomes middle class prosperity minister to talk money

Vernon PAC takes stand against dating violence

KSS to host presentation to equip parents with tools to spot unhealthy, violent relationships

VIDEO: Vernon man says stranger breaks in while family slept

Resident shares doorbell cam footage in hopes to ID suspect who raided his home and fridge

Two-car collision in busy Vernon intersection

Firefighters, RCMP and ambulance are on scene

VIDEO: Protesters set up beside Vernon highway

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP responds to countrywide blockades

UPDATE: Protesters say they will maintain blockade near Chase “as long as it takes”

Signs at protest site say in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en

Petition seeks to remove local police department from Lindsay Buziak murder case

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Deaths on popular Shuswap trail ruled accidental

B.C. Coroners Service reports on fatal falls in May and July 2019

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

‘Chain reaction pile up’ closes southbound traffic on Coquihalla Highway

Black Press Media has reached out to RCMP, paramedics for details

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

EDITORIAL: Thoughtless posts to Facebook cause real harm and stress

At the risk of resembling a broken record, it needs to be… Continue reading

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Most Read