Another service dog user raps transit
August 29, 2012 - 4:02am By CLARE MELLOR Staff Reporter
Hearing-impaired woman alleges discrimination
Jenny Negus has filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, alleging Metro Transit has discriminated against her and her service dog Delta. (TED PRITCHARD / Staff)
“It just makes me so mad,” Negus said Tuesday.
The 26-year-old hearing-impaired woman says she filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission in June alleging discrimination because of difficulties she has encountered boarding Metro Transit buses with her service dog Delta.
On Monday, Lauri Noye of Dartmouth said she was prevented from getting on a bus with her cocker spaniel Molly, even though she says she showed the driver a doctor’s note explaining Molly’s role. She said she was told the seizure alert dog would have to be a registered service dog to be allowed on the bus.
Negus, also of Dartmouth, says even people with registered service dogs in uniform have run into problems boarding Metro Transit buses.
Negus, who has 75 to 80 per cent hearing loss, has been using a service dog for 3 years. Delta alerts her to alarms, phone calls and other situations.
She alleges her most recent negative encounter with Metro Transit occurred on May 24. A driver let her sit down on the bus after she showed service dog identification but then began to argue with her about the dog.
“She let me sit down and then she talked to me after everybody got on the bus and humiliated me in front of everybody,” Negus said.
“I have a friend who had issues with getting on the buses with her seeing-eye dog. It is not just service dogs that aren’t well known (that have become an issue on buses). It’s all service dogs, all guide dogs.”
Negus, who frequently takes the bus to the Nova Scotia Community College and back during the school year, said she called Metro Transit and offered to educate drivers about service dogs but was turned down.
Then she complained to the human rights commission, which informed her this week that her case is moving ahead, she said.
An official with the commission could not comment Tuesday on Negus’s complaint or even confirm that she has filed one.
“Nothing is a matter of public record until it is at the board of inquiry stage,” said Ritchie Wheeler, special assistant to the commission’s chief executive officer.
Metro Transit also would not comment on Negus’s allegation. Spokeswoman Tiffany Chase said no notice of a human rights complaint involving a service dog had been received.
Chase said registered service dogs are allowed on Metro Transit buses, and a doctor’s note would be sufficient authorization if the dog is not registered.
Chase said Metro Transit is still looking into Noye’s case. She said Noye hadn’t yet contacted Metro Transit directly.
It’s possible that the driver may not have understood that a doctor’s note would be acceptable identification, Chase said. Later Tuesday, she said the driver said the doctor’s note was not on letterhead.
Chase said Metro Transit policy states that a special harness should be visible or identification provided to show that a dog is a registered service animal.
“I think that more and more, there are service animals that people are using that are not necessarily registered, and so perhaps we need to look at the wording of what our policy is, to make it more clear for our operators,” she said.
Noye could not be reached Tuesday.
Just last week, a visually impaired Dartmouth man complained to the media that he had been told his guide dog wasn’t welcome at a Dartmouth employment centre.
Negus said education about service dogs, starting in schools, is the key to preventing future problems.
“It is not just Metro Transit,” she said. “Metro Transit is the big one for me now, as these other places have learned to accept the fact that I am coming in whether (they) want me to or not.”