A San Diego man plans to fight back after his guide dog was denied access to a carousel in San Diego’s popular Balboa Park.
Lyn Gwizdak was at the park Sunday with his sister when he says the operator of the ride told him he could not board the ride with his assistance dog.
“The guy comes around and says oh you can't ride this with the dog on here," Gwizdak said. "And I said, what you mean, I can't have a dog on here? This is my guide dog. It wasn't a pet."
The operator claimed it was a safety issue to the animal, a two-year-old German Sheppard named Oliver.
"They wanted to bring their service dog on and I explained to them that it's just too dangerous to the animal,” said Bill Brown, the Carousel Operator. “You know you never know how a dog is going to react."
Gwizdak told the operator it was a violation of the American Disabilities Act, but the man told him that not allowing the dog was the carousel’s policy and had been since 1972, Gwizdak said.
"I say, ‘I've ridden this many, many times,’” Gwizdak told NBC7. “And he says ‘well, it couldn't have been this one because you know, you wouldn't have been allowed to ride with your dog.’ And I say, ‘I'm telling you I have ridden this for years.’"
Over the years, Gwizdak says he has gotten on the carousel with several guide dogs and the dogs were never in danger, he said.
“The feet of the animals come within two inches of the ground. If the dog were to run under those feet while the ride is going, they're going to get crushed to death. It's a safety issue," Brown said. “We just don't want the dogs to get hurt."
But Gwizdak says he wanted them to change the policy so service dogs are welcome and will try to fight for the change, if possible.
"An access issue pops up when you least expect it,” he said.
"I'm sure that they've probably done it to other people and they just got off and went away,” Gwizdak said.
Richard Prager, an attorney at the Law Offices of Charles Roseman, said because the incident happened on city property, the city has more responsibility to ensure the attractions are accessible for people with disabilities.
"Access issues are very prevalent,” Prager said. “And it's disturbing that 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act that these same issues keep repeating themselves over and over again."
Because the city receives federal funds, a condition of receiving those funds is to ensure the city has programs, services and activities open to and accessible to individuals with disabilities. The carousel is privately owned, but leased by the city.
"As the operator of the business, they have the right to make sure that they think all the patrons in their attraction are safe, and they get to make the decision about excluding someone or not,” Prager said.
"If they've used it in the past, there's no reason to believe that they couldn't keep using it in the future unless there was some change in circumstance,” Prager said.
Gwizdak has reached out to the city, but has yet to hear back. He has also reached out to a private attorney to discuss the matter.
"I'm gonna try to do something if I can," Gwizdak said, adding that he is not someone that will just give in and walk away.