A blind man was told that his guide dog was not allowed to enter a Kamloops gas station, and when security arrived, he was startled when it was him they put in handcuffs.
“I was very shocked and appalled,” Ben Fulton told CTV News. “I was just really surprised at how quickly it spiraled out of control.”
Fulton lost his vision to a rare disorder called retinitis pigmentosa two years ago. All he sees is a grey blur, which is why he relies mostly on his guide dog, Abbie.
He was on a road trip to celebrate after graduating law school, but things did not go as planned when he made a pit stop at the Shell gas station on the Trans-Canada Highway on June 16. Fulton said the gas station clerk told him that his manager gave “strict instructions” on their no pet policy.
Fulton tried to show him Abbie’s card that shows she is a working dog, but the clerk continued to dismiss him.
“When I was showing him the card, he didn’t want to look at the card. He didn’t want to hear what I was saying about Abbie being a guide dog. He didn’t seem to understand the law,” Fulton said. “He asked me if I wanted him to call the cops [and] I responded by saying that I would love it if he called the cops. I was expecting them to show up and enforce the law.”
But when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrived at the scene, they placed handcuffs on Fulton instead.
RCMP explained they received a call about a man and woman threatening the clerk.
“When the officers attended at first, they noticed the man and woman. The dog was off to the side and behind them; they didn’t even notice the dog, they were focused on the man and woman,” spokesperson Cpl. Jodi Shelkie said.
Shelkie said the attending two officers asked the man and woman to leave, so when they refused and was “unco-operative,” Fulton was arrested.
RCMP defended the actions taken by their officers, claiming that protocols were followed.
“We have a lot of diversity training both for accessibility, cultural and racial situation and we deal with these on an ongoing basis. In this situation, as soon as they found out he’s blind, they removed him from handcuffs and he went on his way without charges,” Shelkie said.
B.C. Guide Dogs CEO Bill Thornton said it was very disappointing to hear about the tragic incident.
Guide and service dogs are allowed to enter and use any place where the public is invited or has access to, according to the B.C. Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.
“Sales associates are expected to treat all customers with care and respect… We have reached out to the independent retailer who operated this site, along with the local RCMP, to further understand this incident,” Shell Canada spokesperson Kristen Schmidt.
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