Man with guide dog denied access to Halifax Transit bus
HALIFAX -- A man says he was denied service on a Halifax Transit bus this week because the driver didn't believe his guide dog was a real service animal.
John denHollander was walking with his cane Thursday.
His guide dog, Oden, is in Ottawa getting medical attention, but getting Oden to the airport proved much harder than denHollander anticipated.
"I'm still devastated," he said. "I wish the police would take it and run with it. I still feel somewhat uncomfortable on transit because of what took place."
John and Oden were waiting for the bus on Barrington Street on Tuesday afternoon.
When they got on their ride, John says he was asked for Oden's paperwork.
"I was asked for that, but before I pulled it out he said, don't bother, he sniffed my knapsack, so he's now calling his supervisor," denHollander said.
He says the driver refused to move the bus because Oden was sniffing around and didn't believe he was a real guide dog.
That is something that surprises advocates from the CNIB.
"We've had the Blind Persons' Rights Act in place for over 30 years, and that protects us from these types of things," said Shelley Adams, who does community engagement for the CNIB. "But it doesn't, because they're still happening."
The act states that no one with a guide dog should be denied service or accommodation, and anyone who denies service could be fined up to $3,000.
So, denHollander filed a complaint with Halifax Transit, which says it is reviewing the incident.
"As part of their training when they're first hired, our operators are shown how to identify a service animal via photos or collar tags and vests," said city spokesperson Jane Spray.
Next, denHollander called Halifax Regional Police, but was told it wasn't their jurisdiction.
The provincial justice minister agrees.
"There would be avenues, both at the municipal level and the provincial level through environment where our inspectors are for public to make complaints or inquire of those very services, but I don't see it to be a primary police responsibility," said Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey.
That is something that is frustrating for guide dog users.
"It's illegal to refuse a guide dog team," Adams said. "So you guys need to deal with this when it happens."
John denHollander wonders "what's the point of having laws if they refuse to act upon them?"
Now, he is looking for clarity about who to call if this ever happens again.
So, the question now is who enforces the Blind Persons' Rights Act?
If it is a provincial law, and it has been broken, who should someone call?
And who would enforce the fines that could be levied?
It's certainly a confusing issue for those caught in the middle.