January 13, 2014 2:56 pm
Updated: January 14, 2014 3:11 am

Alberta woman outraged service dog not allowed on Air Canada flight


EDMONTON – A Cold Lake woman is expressing her frustration after she says Air Canada refused to let her service dog ride in the cabin with her for free.

Shirley Jew had booked a flight from Edmonton to Toronto after finding out her grandmother had passed away.

The Canadian Armed Forces sergeant says PTSD makes it hard for her to function and concentrate during her daily life, so her dog “Snoopy” helps her with her anxiety and focus.

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“She will pull me out of a situation. She’ll pull me out of my zone. If I zone out, she’ll pull me out of that,” explains Jew.

Air Canada’s policy is for those travelling with service animals to call customer service and alert the airline. Jew says that’s what she attempted to do.

“Once I contacted their desk I was told that they don’t recognize my service dog as a service dog even though I have the documentation,” Jew explains.

Jew says after speaking to Air Canada’s medical desk, she was so upset she had to hang up the phone.

“I very (nearly) had a meltdown.”

During a Facebook exchange between Jew and Air Canada, a message from Air Canada reads:

“PTSD isn’t yet recognized by the Canadian government as one of the conditions requiring a service animal. Under current regulations, we are required to permit service animals only for flights to the US where PTSD is recognized as a condition requiring service animals. Flights within Canada fall within Canadian law and so we don’t have these requirements yet. ”

Jew claims Air Canada has allowed her service dog to sit at her feet during previous flights.

In a statement to Global News on Monday, Air Canada said, while the information provided during that Facebook exchange was from a member of the Air Canada social media team, it was incorrect.

“Air Canada does have a policy in place to accept service animals of passengers with disabilities. These disabilities are not limited to physical disabilities,” explained Peter Fitzpatrick. “Customers are required to have their physician fill a form. Once approved, provided the animal is professionally-trained and harnessed, it can be accepted for travel. In fact, we provide extra space to accommodate them.”

“In this particular case, we have invited the customer to provide us with more complete information to allow the customer to travel on Air Canada with her service animal. We apologize for this misunderstanding.”

The company did offer the option for Jew to have her dog in the cabin for a charge of $50, but Jew cancelled the tickets – which Air Canada refunded – before booking with Westjet.

“They’re awesome. They were like, ‘yup, no problem. Everything is all set. You’re good to go,'” says Jew.

Global News has spoken to the legal agency representing the organization that trained Shirley’s dog.

A lawyer with the agency says under the Canadian Transportation Act, service dogs must be allowed on planes for anyone who has a physical or mental disability, and PTSD is a recognized mental health disorder.

Jew says she sent a message to Air Canada she hopes will change the airlines policy on dealing with people who are dealing with PTSD.

“I hope you guys understand it’s not just military or veterans. You are now going to have RCMP and first responders, so this is going to be a very common sight, and I hope you treat all of us like humans.”

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