5 On Your Side

Service dog-in-training denied access to N.C. State bus

Posted November 23, 2010 5:00 p.m. EST
Updated November 23, 2010 6:08 p.m. EST

— Theresa Buchheit has raised and trained service dogs with her family for 17 years, so she was surprised when her dog-in-training, Jarvis, was denied access to a Wolfline campus bus at North Carolina State University.

“I explained what Jarvis does and (that) I was training him to be a future assistance dog,” Buchheit said. “(The bus driver) said that only dogs that lead a person could come on to the bus, and since I didn't have a disability and wasn't blind, Jarvis wouldn't be allowed on.”

State law requires access to public places for service animals and those in training, as long as they are officially identified with a harness or cape like the one Jarvis wears.

Buchheit said she called a Wolfline supervisor but got nowhere. She then sent an e-mail to Wolfline Transit Manager Kim Paylor explaining that she was denied access and that Jarvis had a vest, tag and tattoo and that she had an ID card.

After no response, Buchheit called again. A week passed with no response, so she sent a second e-mail. That e-mail was ignored as well, so Buchheit called WRAL’s 5 on Your Side.

Buchheit trains Jarvis, a 1-year-old Labrador Retriever, through a group called Canine Companions for Independence. If he does well, Jarvis will be partnered with a child or adult who has a disability.

“Jarvis is a pretty mellow dog. He’s pretty willing to work,” she said.

Socialization is a critical part of the training, so Buchheit takes Jarvis just about everywhere she goes, including classes at N.C. State.

“It’s very important that they start early getting exposures,” she said.

For months, Buchheit and Jarvis took the Wolfline bus between her job at the veterinary school and the main campus. That changed last month when a driver would not allow Jarvis to ride.

Brian O'Sullivan, assistant director of transportation at N.C. State, said this situation shouldn’t have happened and won’t happen again.

“I can't explain it in any other terms than that – (a) misunderstanding (and) lack of education,” he said. “(Service dogs) always have been and they will certainly continue to be allowed on Wolfline buses, and we'll get that message across.”

Buchheit said she is pleased with the outcome and that “we’ve gotten a good educational opportunity here.”