A Grand Falls-Windsor veteran is calling for a formal apology after Marine Atlantic resisted his request to allow him to bring his service dog on a trip to Nova Scotia.
Jean-Guy and Anne Dubuc plan to visit their newborn grandchild later this month. When they attempted to book space on a Marine Atlantic crossing for Posey, Jean-Guy's service dog, they began encountering difficulties.
"I'm stressed because I see the stress that he's going through," Anne told Radio-Canada on Thursday. "The stress that he's going through is not called for."
Jean-Guy, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, relies on Posey, a Labrador retriever, to help with anxiety and depression. He said having his service dog with him is essential.
"I can't do anything without her," he said.
The Dubucs submitted documents — including a training certificate and ID card — to prove that Posey is a service dog rather than a pet, but Marine Atlantic told them they needed to provide more evidence or pay for a pet-friendly cabin.
Anne said that wasn't an option.
"The expense is not what I'm worried about. I am going for the principle. I'm too stubborn for that," she said.
Anne said the couple submitted the same documents to Air Canada and United Airlines, which accepted them without issue.
After weeks of back-and-forth between the Dubucs and Marine Atlantic — and after questions from Radio-Canada — the ferry service relented, and plans to allow Posey on the ferry as a service dog.
Following the rules
Marine Atlantic spokesperson Darrell Mercer said the Crown corporation was following recommendations and guidelines from the Canadian Transportation Agency.
"We want to make sure that the animals that are traveling and are in the public areas are trained to do so appropriately," he said. "That would protect not only other customers, but also the traveller themselves."
In this case, according to Mercer, the training certificate was too vague and should have included more information from the trainer.
"There wasn't any real certification from a trainer that the training had been completed," he said.
He said there have been incidents involving fake service animals and other passengers in the past, and Marine Atlantic is trying to prevent future incidents.
"That has caused problems not only in Marine Atlantic's industry but also for other transportation providers," he said.
Mercer said he recommends passengers who intend to bring their service animals contact Marine Atlantic to resolve any potential issues. In the Dubucs' case, Marine Atlantic eventually decided to accept the training graduation date on one of the documents.
Jean-Guy said he hopes no one else is put through the same situation.
"I should never have had to go through this," he said.
He wants Marine Atlantic to revisit its policies and give him a formal apology.