Fort Gibson Veteran’s Service Dog Denied Access On Plane
FORT GIBSON, Oklahoma - A Green Country army veteran says he was denied a seat on his flight home because United wouldn't allow his service dog on the plane.
Cale Wells was heading home this morning after spending Christmas with his girlfriend's family in New Jersey.
Wells served in the army for four years before he was honorably discharged for medical reasons. He recently adopted his service dog, Dyson, to help him get through hard times.
“I have a lot of emotional issues. I was really struggling and then my mom set me up with G.I. Wishes and then we met Dyson,” said Wells. “He reminds me that there’s still good.”
His stepdad, Tyrel Brown, even said he notices a big difference in Wells.
“Since Dyson, he’s done a lot better controlling his anger and letting things slide.”
Wells tried to get on his early flight Tuesday morning out of Newark airport like he's done many times before, but he, his girlfriend and Dyson were not allowed to board.
“They wouldn’t let either of us talk. I showed them the ID and everything, and they just looked at it and scoffed and said, ‘No, you’re not getting on this flight,’” said Wells.
They told Wells he didn't have the right paperwork even though he showed it to them at the gate.
“I showed them a digital copy of the prescription and everything on letterhead,” said Wells. “It probably could've been prevented right there, no harm no foul, but they were just rude.”
United Airlines' policy states, "Trained service animals are accepted in cabin for qualified individuals with a disability. A service animal should sit in the floor space in front of the customer's assigned seat."
They go on to say, “Customers traveling with an emotional support or psychiatric assist animal must provide a minimum 48-hour advance notification to the United Accessibility Desk. The Accessibility Desk must receive and validate the required documentation prior to the time of travel. Verification of documentation will include United contacting your mental health care professional. If we are unable to validate the documentation or if the advance notification is not given, customers will be required to transport the animal as a pet, and pet fees will apply.”
Wells says Dyson has been on several flights before and he's never had a problem. He even traveled with Wells and his girlfriend on the 21st to Newark and was allowed on the plane.
“Most of the time he just sits on the floor, goes to sleep, doesn’t bother anybody,” said Wells.
But Wells and his girlfriend just hope no one will ever have to go through something like this again.
“Regardless if I'm a veteran or not, nobody deserves to be treated like that,” said Wells.
United released a statement saying, “We have reached out to the customer to apologize for the situation and will refund the fee and provide a gesture of goodwill for his experience.”