MOUNT ORAB, OH (FOX19) - A blind Sardinia woman says a Brown County church is discriminating against her by not allowing her guide dog on a church bus.
Cathy Inglis says Tiny, a 6-year-old Boxer is an extension of herself helping her to live independently even though she is completely blind. While she has had to explain Tiny's role before, she says she never thought a church would turn him away.
"They told me I was not allowed to ride the church bus," said Inglis.
After asking to ride the Sunday school bus to church with her 6-year-old grandson and Tiny, Inglis says Bible Baptist Church in Mt. Orab told her Tiny could not ride the bus.
"If I have offended them, I would like to ask for their forgiveness because I would not want to offend them," said Pastor Ted House of Bible Baptist Church.
House calls the entire discussion a huge misunderstanding. Both Tiny and Cathy are welcome anytime inside or outside the church he says but any dog on a church owned vehicle poses liability concerns.
"It's just I don't want the dog on the bus around those children in those close quarters because a dog is a dog no matter how well they are trained and a dog might nip a kid and then I've got a parent upset and a lawsuit," said Pastor House.
Inglis says she has never had any aggression issues toward humans with any of the seven guide dogs she has owned throughout her lifetime. Each of them Inglis says go through extensive training to behave in public.
House says he has suggested other options besides bringing Tiny on the bus such as having volunteers guide Inglis on Sundays or having a church member pick up the pair in a private vehicle. They are options Inglis says she should not have to choose from based on her disability.
"I didn't get the dog to leave him and be guided by somebody else. I got him so I could work him and get around as best I can,"
According to American Disabilities Act, churches are not required to be ADA compliant but most do so voluntarily. By law, Bible Baptist Church has the right to refuse to accommodate anyone with disabilities.
Pastor House admits while he should have communicated the issue better, he sticks by his decision to protect the children on the bus.