No seats for service dogs on Transit Windsor

Ryan Percy
By Ryan Percy February 9, 2018 13:49

No seats for service dogs on Transit Windsor

Ocean Connolly said she was upset when the legitimacy of her service dog Andy was called into question (Photo by Ryan Percy).

By Ryan Percy

A Windsor woman says she is hoping what happened to her and her service dog will impact Transit Windsor policy in the future.

Ocean Connolly, 24, is a University of Windsor psychology student. She is aided by her service dog Andy, a bichon-poodle mix, who she said helps helps ground her during moments of extreme anxiety.

On Jan. 31, Connolly was on a Transit Windsor bus with Andy on the seat next to her. The driver of the bus told Connolly to place her service dog on the ground or on her lap, as it was against policy to have dogs sitting on the seats. Connolly said she would not since her service dog would be put in a situation where it could not do its job.

During this time Connolly said she noticed that no one was taking her side.

“Almost all of them just kind of sat there quietly and watched,” Connolly said. “One of them got angry with me for wasting everyone’s time and told me my dog didn’t look like a service dog.”

The driver called for a supervisor and had the rest of the passengers leave to board another bus. When the supervisor came he also cited the policy about animals not being able to sit on bus seats.

However, the Transit Windsor policy posted on its website has no mention of seating limitations when it comes to service animals. It is written that service animals are allowed on board if they are wearing a harness or vest and a letter is available from a physician that verifies the person requires the animal.

Both the London Transit Commission and Toronto Transit Commission allow service animals and place no seating exception on them. Via Rail gives those with service animals either an extra seat free or a discount on double bedroom options.

Today dogs are being used for much more than just leading the blind according to Terri Coutts, a dog behaviourist.

“There is a perception out there that they have to be Labs and they have to be big,” Coutts said. “But for anxiety or … for the deaf that just have to get the phone or get the person to go to the other person that’s calling them they don’t have to be big, they can be a small house dog.”

Gary Brown, manager of operations for Transit Windsor, declined to comment until the executive director had met with Connolly. Connolly said she hoped the promised meeting would take place sooner than later.

Connolly said all she wants is to see this situation end in change for the better so that she does not have to go through the constant ordeal of validation.

“It made me feel alone and angry,” Connolly said. “Honestly it’s exhausting to explain and justify yourself.”

Ryan Percy
By Ryan Percy February 9, 2018 13:49

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