Purple Heart Veteran with Service Dog Denied Ride on NJ Bus

 In Military, Veterans

It has become a relatively common occurrence: veterans denied access to something because they have registered service dog with them. For Daniel Wright, who has “Tank,” a Pit Bull, as his service dog, it meant that a bus driver shut the door in his face when he attempted to get on a New Jersey Transit bus.

SSgt Daniel Wright (ret) is a Purple heart recipient who suffers from PTSD. He served 11 years with 4 combat tours in the Marines and Army. And “Tank” is his life line – a registered U.S. Army Service Dog.

The pit bull wakes him up at night if he is having “night terrors.” He gets Wright’s medicine for him. He pushes the buttons on elevators, opens the frig door and retrieves water bottles.

purple heart veteran

This is Tank, Daniel Wright’s Service Dog.

“He’s a good dog.” Daniel Wright

The bus driver slammed the door in Daniel’s face in spite of the clearly marked service vest Tank was wearing. Daniel thinks the bus driver was apprehensive about the dog being a pit bull, and thought he might need a muzzle.

Eventually another bus driver came along and allowed Daniel and Tank to ride he bus – but only AFTER Daniel showed his military ID.

Breed Does Not Matter

The Americans with Disabilities Act states the following:

Public entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry. In situations where it is not apparent that the dog is a service animal, a public entity may ask only two questions: 1) is the animal required because of a disability? and 2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Public entities may not ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability.

The ADA does not restrict the breeds of dogs that may be used as service animals. Therefore, a town ordinance that prohibits certain breeds must be modified to allow a person with a disability to use a service animal of a prohibited breed, unless the dog’s presence poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. Public entities have the right to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether use of a particular service animal poses a direct threat, based on that animal’s actual behavior or history; they may not, however, exclude a service animal based solely on fears or generalizations about how an animal or particular breed might behave.

Rejecting Veterans who need their dogs

The rejection of veterans with service dogs has been occurring throughout the United States. From Washington state to Chicago, Texas to Michigan, people who are either ignorant of the ADA or are plain afraid of dogs, have refused US Veterans entrance to businesses in blatant violation of the law.

In nearly every case, the businesses issue an apology, and in many cases people are fired. In one case, a hotel’s denial of a veteran and his family because of their service dog resulted in the veteran’s arrest.

For Daniel Wright, his formal complaint with  the NJ transit authority has resulted (so far) in an apology, and they are conducting an investigation, promising that the driver will be disciplined.

But for all of the United States Military veterans who have found solace and assistance in a service dog, we hope that people will be properly trained in the ADA.

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