A U.S. Marine and Army veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart after serving four combat tours overseas was refused a bus ride in New Jersey because of his service dog.
“I was just trying to come home from school,” Daniel Wright told “Fox & Friends” Monday.
Wright served 11 years and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He said the New Jersey bus driver slammed the bus door when he and his service pit bull, Tank, tried to climb aboard.
Tank is a registered service animal and was wearing his collar and vest that reads “US Army Service Dog.” The driver, however, said he was afraid of the pit bull and closed the door on Wright after claiming he would need to put a muzzle on the dog if he wanted to ride the bus.
To date, the veteran has undergone nine surgeries on his left shoulder, so Tank has served as an extension of Wright’s left arm. The pit bull completes tasks such as pushing elevator buttons and opening the refrigerator for Wright.
Wright believes the bus driver’s hostility stems from a misperception that only retrievers can play the role of service dogs.
“They think those are the only dogs that can be service dogs.” Wright said, “But [Tank] is a good dog.”
New Jersey Transit officials have apologized to the veteran and assured him the driver will receive ample disciplinary ramifications.
“Service animals are permitted on board all of our modes: bus, rail, light rail, and Access Link,” a New Jersey Transit officials said in a statement. “And we take our responsibility to comply with the Americans with Disabilities act very seriously.”
Despite the immediate response from the transportation company, Wright still believes more awareness needs to be spread about the use of service animals.
The veteran believes there is also a misconception that service dogs are only needed for individuals who are blind or deaf. However, Wright wants to draw attention to the fact that there are many disabled veterans who also need service animals, and their needs should not be undermined or forgotten.