Tad Tadesse and his service dog Rosie, a pit bull, skyrocketed to local fame after a video purportedly showing a Muni supervisor and San Francisco Police Department officer trying to remove the pair from a cable car surfaced Sunday.
But Tadesse and Rosie have been ousted from Muni vehicles more than 20 times, the dog owner told the San Francisco Examiner on Monday. As the Examiner first reported, on Saturday afternoon Tadesse tried to ride a California Cable Car with Rosie, but an operator allegedly would not run the vehicle with Rosie on board.
“I‘m kind of relieved that finally I might get help,” Tadesse said, “especially on the lawyer front.” He said he’s considering suing.
Tadesse visited the Examiner office Monday with Rosie in tow, who held a stick in her jaws as she ambled in. She sat, twirled, hugged, shook hands and gave kisses on command.
Paul Rose, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said 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,” Rose said.
Tadesse said otherwise –– and asserted it is not the first time he was denied a Muni ride. He has compiled email correspondence including grievances filed with SFMTA through the San Francisco Mayor’s Office on Disability, as well as documentation of incidents with SFPD and the Office of Citizen Complaints.
Though Tadesse acknowledged Rosie did not have a leash or muzzle, SFMTA policy states that service dogs do not require either.
Disability access officials clarified with the Examiner that emotional support dogs are considered service dogs in San Francisco because federal and state laws are broad.
Joanna Fraguli, deputy director for programmatic access at the Mayor’s Office on Disability, said the Americans with Disabilities Act defines service animals as those trained to provide a service, like guide dogs, but that doesn’t include emotional support animals.
However, section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act defines service animals more broadly, and that definition applies to agencies that receive federal funding –– which the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency does.
Additionally, Fraguli said, California law defines “assistant animals” as both service animals and emotional support animals.
Two members of the SFMTA Board of Directors, Gwyneth Borden and Cheryl Brinkman, told the Examiner they would ask for clarification on the policy for service animals.
An SFMTA policy and training rule, “Transportation Service Animals on Cable Car,” states service animals may be on an owner’s lap if the owner rides on the exterior of a cable car –– which is how Tadesse sat in the controversial video, with Rosie on his lap.
Tadesse is a political refugee who came to the U.S. from Kenya when he was 12, after escaping violence in Ethiopia where he was born. He has permanent resident status.
He moved to San Francisco in 1998 because “I was already out in terms of being gay” but The City was known for “its freedom.”
Tadesse was in a collision while riding his motorcycle in 2013, and lingering injuries and unrelated illnesses prompted him to request Rosie be classified as a service dog for emotional support.
“I love you so much,” he told his dog Monday, as she smiled back at him.