By Karen Morfitt
DENVER (CBS4) – A local veteran is taking on RTD after an incident he had with a bus driver over his service dog. RTD says policy was followed, but that passenger, David Sapp, believes his rights were violated and plans to sue.
“For the last 15 years, I have always got the 10 to the VA,” Sapp said.
Starting four years ago, he started bringing a friend with him, his service dog, Zoey, who helps to treat his PTSD.
“Without her, without Zoey, I would be totally lost,” he said. “Obviously, I have no likes for people.”
Sapp is talking about an altercation he had on an RTD bus in March of this year.
Cameras from three angles inside the bus show the Sapp and Zoey getting on for their ride. You can hear Zoey barking at first and the quiets down.
While walking down the aisle to sit down, Zoey hops up on the seat and remains there while Sapp appears to be situating himself.
Zoey then approaches another passenger prompting the bus driver’s initial question.
“Sir is that a service dog?” The driver asks.
“Yes she’s a service dog!” Sapp yells.
“You put her on the floor, right?” the driver asks.
Immediately Sapp is defensive and begins cursing.
“Hell no I won’t! Would you put your child on the floor? She can sit in my lap!”
Sapp keeps a copy of the RTD service animal policy in his pocket. It says a service animal does not have to be clearly marked and can sit on a passengers lap.
Almost immediately, the bus driver is yelling back at Sapp, seemingly with the same understanding of the policy.
“She has to be on the floor or your lap,” he screams.
It took less than a minute for Zoey to get in Sapp’s lap, but the confrontation continues and a supervisor arrives.
“This bus isn’t going anywhere until you get off,” the supervisor tells Sapp.
Eventually the dispute moves outside the bus, and by the end of the confrontation there are two police officers, two supervisors and the bus driver.
Sapp says it was at that point that his anxiety overcame him.
“I am a grown man, and they made me stand there until I messed my pants,” he said, reliving the moment in his attorney’s office.
It took nearly an hour, but Sapp was allowed to continue his trip… humiliated, but determined to keep fighting.
“I’m more concerned about veterans that aren’t as fortunate as me,” he said. “Train your drivers better. Most of them don’t even know your rules and regulations”
An RTD spokesperson did not want to go on camera, but did provide this written response:
We researched the incident along with our contractor First Transit, who employs the bus operator and provides service under contract to RTD. The bus operator was correct in asking the passenger to keep his dog under control and in his lap. The dog was initially running loose in the aisles, jumped on the seats and was barking loudly. The dog jumped up on a female passenger, and from her reaction she clearly did not appreciate it. The bus operator should have been more professional in his dealings with the passenger, but he did follow proper procedures regarding the loose dog. The bus operator’s interaction with the passenger has been properly addressed. Please note that even clearly marked service animals must be kept under control at all times for the comfort and safety of our passengers, which was definitely not the case in this particular instance.
Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.