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

NHL prospects returning to Penticton for Young Stars Classic

After a one-year absence the Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Classic is returning… Continue reading

South Okanagan swimmers and coach off to Euro 2020 in Belgium

Three members of the KISU Swim Club are headed to Belgium to compete in the Euro 2020 meet

Controversial patio expansion in downtown Penticton to be addressed at council

Cannery Brewing seeks the City’s permission to open a patio on Ellis St.

Third South Okanagan show added for PAW Patrol Live!

A third show was announced for the PAW Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure show at the SOEC

Proposal for public outdoor rink in downtown Penticton gaining traction

Outdoor rink, funded by the Penticton Vees, would always remain free to use for the public.

Okanagan College art exhibit raises awareness around consent

The project has been to Vernon and will go to Penticton, Salmon Arm

January brings record snowfall to Shuswap ski area

Up to 800 downed trees removed so far from Larch Hills cross-country trail network

Letter: Canada could have its own king if Prince Harry, Meghan Markle move to B.C.

Royals could take up residence in one of Victoria’s homeless camps during Empress reno

North Okanagan employers to pay $25/hr for skilled foreign workers

Up to 300 applicants may apply under immigration pilot

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

Protesters block entrance to Victoria government building to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

‘Epic sky palace’: B.C. businesses help create dream treehouse for boy recovering from cancer

‘It was kind of a bright shining beacon at the end of a horrible, dark tunnel’

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Most Read