On Saturday, Tad Tadesse was allegedly asked to leave a San Francisco cable car with his pit bull service dog Rosie, because the operator of the trolley did not feel safe in the dog’s presence. The incident was captured on video and posted to Facebook, where it has been watched over 900,000 times.
In the clip, a San Francisco Police Department officer and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) supervisor are purportedly shown asking Tadesse to leave the cable car with his dog.
Paul Rose, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, told the San Francisco Examiner that the operator “did not feel safe,” and asked Tadesse and Rosie to move inside the cable car, not off of it.
“At no point was service denied,” he added.
Gina Tomaselli, an attorney who filmed the viral Facebook video, says differently.
“Cop insists that this man get off the cable car (run by SFMTA) because, according to the dog owner, the driver is afraid of his pit bull service dog — and refused to operate the cable car unless the dog owner got off the car — even after he presented written documentation of the dog’s status,” she wrote on the Facebook post of the video.
Tadesse also maintains the driver refused to operate the trolley until he left, and told the Examiner that he can think of 20 more incidents where he and Rosie, an emotional support animal, were denied service by SFMTA.
Rose also told the Examiner, “We understand that some riders need service animals to reach their destination and we want to ensure they can do that safely. The operators of any vehicle have the responsibility of keeping their passengers safe and the rules are that every dog should be muzzled and leashed if they are not a trained service animal. This dog was neither.”
According to federal and California state law and its broad definition of service animals, emotional support animals qualify as service animals and are allowed to accompany their owners on SFMTA transportation without a muzzle or leash. The SFMTA policy rule on service animals on cable cars states that riders are allowed to ride with their service animals on their lap, as long as they are sitting on the exterior of the car, which is how Tadesse was reportedly sitting at the time of the incident.
Tadesse, who is a political refugee that escaped violence in Ethiopia and came to America at the age of 12, got Rosie after suffering a motorcycle accident in 2013.
After watching the video, many animal lovers are speaking out, outraged that Tadesse and Rosie, who is shown sitting calmly throughout the clip, were denied service solely based on the driver’s feeling about the pit bull.
“I put my face against the dog. The dog licked my hand,” Tomaselli, who has two pit bulls of her own, told KGO about Rosie’s behavior. “She was just very relaxed and he just wanted to ride the cable car.”
Tadesse has filed a complaint with the Mayor’s Office of Disability, something he says he has done before, and is planning legal action. SFMTA is still investigating the incident.