13 June 2011

Cab driver suspended after forcing service dog to ride in the trunk

Claiming he was allergic to dogs, a Colorado cabbie refused to allow a blind woman to have her dog in the car unless it rode in the trunk. Judie Brown reluctantly agreed as she was late for an appointment, but later told ABC News that her black Labrador Alberto whined for the entire journey.

Service dogs (and their owners) are protected by Colorado state law, allowing them to ride together in taxis and public transport but riding in cabs and eating in restaurants can cause problems for those with service dogs according to the President of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, Marion Gwizdala.

“Most states have criminal penalties for refusing access to service dogs, but one of the major issues is that generally there’s ignorance of the law. The Department of Justice clearly states that allergies and fear of animals are not reasons to dent service animals – unless the allergy rises to the level of disability,” he said.

James Sublett, chair of Indoor Environments Committee at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, states that it could be possible for allergy reactions to cause anything from nasal congestion, rashes or inflammation to life threatening asthma attacks depending on the severity level of a person’s allergy. He further stated that just one ride in a car would leave dog dander in the vehicle for weeks unless cleaned thoroughly.

So with a conflict between the laws protecting service dogs such as Alberto, and personal health what is a plausible compromise?

“The driver has a reasonable right to avoid contamination of his car with dog dander,” said Miles Weinberger, director of the Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Division at the University of Iowa. However he added, the driver has an “obligation to ensure that an alternative taxi is promptly available. Putting the dog in the trunk is not an acceptable alternative.”

The driver of the cab, who has not been named, has since been suspended from his job and fined by the state for violating the Colorado law protecting service dogs.

Bev Hahler | @redhotvegan
Bev, a vegetarian since she was 14 years old, became more interested in veganism several years ago after studying Agro-business as part of an Ecology degree. She has a gorgeous daughter in second grade who has been a vegetarian her whole life (lucky girl). Follow Bev on her blog and Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/mamchenkov