Princess waits for the bus with Lisa Arlin. Arlin says she is training Princess to be her service dog, but bus drivers aren’t letting the dog board because she’s not certified. (Tracy Holmes photo)

White Rock woman says blocking ‘service dog’ from transit a denial of human rights

White Rock’s Lisa Arlin says guide-dog certification is voluntary

A White Rock woman who filed an unsuccessful human-rights complaint against TransLink four years ago, alleging discrimination due to denied access for her service dog, is raising the issue anew after having similar experiences with a different dog.

Lisa Arlin said she is “standing up for my rights” in the hopes TransLink will adjust its policy around service animals on buses, which currently states assistance animals must wear a harness and leash, and that handlers must be prepared to produce a Guide Animal Certificate.

Arlin argues that under the Human Rights Code, certification is voluntary. As well, she points to a two-page summary of need-to-know facts regarding ‘protections for people with disabilities who require a guide or service dog’ that reads, in part, that service providers “should not refuse service to someone who identifies that they have a disability merely because the person’s guide or service dog is not certified under the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act or is not wearing a vest or other visible identifier.”

But Arlin said that is exactly what has been happening to her for months.

“The drivers don’t even ask if it’s a service dog, they don’t ask for a certificate. They just don’t let me on,” she told Peace Arch News.

“That guide-dog certificate was not meant to deny service.”

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

TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews said the company’s policy aims to protect other passengers and operators from any dangers an untrained dog could present.

Bus drivers, she said, are instructed to ask for proof of certification for dogs that don’t appear to meet CMBC (Coast Mountain Bus Company) criteria, which includes being on a leash or wearing a harness or vest. They also observe the dog’s behaviour for evidence of appropriate training, she said.

At the same time, she said drivers are aware that dog-handler teams exist outside of the province’s certification process. For those dogs to board, they must be well-behaved, may not occupy a seat and must use a leash or harness, she said.

“We allow operators to make these case by case judgments when circumstances warrant,” Drews said by email. “Otherwise, the pet policy applies. Official certification supersedes any observations or judgments made by operators, which is why obtaining certification is the best option.”

With Arlin’s previous dog, Drews said, the TransLink operator determined the dog was not in a vest or harness, that there were no obvious signs of a service dog/handler relationship, Arlin could not produce certification, and the dog behaved in an aggressive manner.

According to the HRT’s reasons, Arlin’s 2016 human-rights complaint was dismissed, in part, because she had no evidence that identified him as medically necessary; and insufficient evidence to support that he was properly trained.

Arlin told PAN last week that she now has documents supporting her need for a service dog, and is training her dog, Princess, to provincial standards. There are 40 tasks that service dogs must be able to demonstrate to be successful – and Arlin wants people to know that she has the right to undertake the training herself, and not have her dog be denied access in the process.

Arlin said public transit is the only place Princess has been denied access.

She noted she has registered to have Princess certified, however, she hasn’t decided if she’ll complete that process. She again pointed to the need-to-know fact sheet, which reads, “The Human Rights Code prevails over other laws where there is a conflict. Certification of guide dogs and service dogs is voluntary under BC’s Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.”

Arlin said Friday that a TransLink supervisor advised her that drivers are not supposed to simply pass by, nor shut their doors on potential passengers who have a dog with them without first at least asking if they are certified.

“‘She’s my service dog, I’m training her.’ That’s all I need to say,” she said. “Please, just respect that.”

Drews said in light of news Arlin has a different dog, “we would be open to reviewing her circumstances using the same criteria.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

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