Skip to main content

Calgary cab driver refused to pick up a blind woman and her service dog

Kim Kilpatrick and her guide dog Ginger are used to getting rides in taxi cabs.

Feb. 12 was just another afternoon she needed a lift and used the Calgary United Cabs app in the downtown core to place her order.

She was stunned by what the driver told her.

"I went across the street and my dog was working, so she was guiding me. It's pretty obvious," said Kilpatrick.

"When we got close, (the driver) said no dogs in the car and we explained that this was a guide dog and she was legally obligated to be with me everywhere and then he said well, you could put her in the trunk and we said absolutely not."

Kilpatrick cancelled the ride and ordered another but received no help from the original driver.

She learned he told his dispatch his fare never showed up.

When Kilpatrick contacted the company's dispatch to share her concern, she received another blow.

"The dispatcher also seemed very unconcerned about this and he actually said well, you should have requested a pet-friendly vehicle – some drivers don't like dogs in the car," she said.

"I knew that was wrong, so that's when I called 311 and launched the complaint."

The City of Calgary says there is no excuse for refusing a guide dog because municipal, provincial and federal legislation all require it.

In a statement, the city says: "Albertans with disabilities who use a qualified service dog have guaranteed public-access rights under the Service Dogs Act and must be allowed access to any location where the general public is allowed. By not providing the service, you’re not only not following the (Service Dogs) Act, but you are also potentially putting both the person and the service dog at risk, and nobody wants to see that."

Livery Transport Bylaw 20M2021, Section 44 (g) states: "A driver must not refuse a passenger because they require that their service dog accompany them and the specified penalty is $700."

In Kilpatrick's case, the driver received the full fine and was suspended for 24 hours by his company, according to Rajeev Gopinath, Calgary United Cabs marketing manager.

"We have issued a fleet message to all the cab drivers that you may have your religious views or any other things," he said.

"But if you have allergies to (animals) then you have to make sure that you stand there, call another cab and make sure that person is OK, otherwise you will be terminated from the company without any further notice."

Gopinath says the driver, with more than 20 years at the company, also had to take a 90-minute training course on how to deal with passengers who use service dogs.

"What I feel is we want to meet (Kim) personally and say our apologies directly to her," he said.

"We will be more than happy to meet her. We want to say our apologies to her and (for her to) have a coffee with us."

Amber Dujay, programs and operations manager at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), says she's frustrated anytime someone with a guide dog is refused service by a ride-share or taxi company.

"It's very defeating to be refused a ride when they're trying to go about their day," she said.

"A guide dog is supposed to allow them to make life easier and to participate and that refusal of service just reminds them every time that they're a little bit different and it's disheartening."

Dujay hopes incidents like this raise awareness in businesses and the public.

"People aren't aware that a guide dog or service animal is not a pet," she said.

"They're a working animal, they're well-trained, they're not up on the seat shedding, they are trained on how to behave and that's an education piece that we're just constantly working on but there's still always room to grow."

Learn more about the CNIB guide dog program at: Top Stories

Stay Connected