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CATS responds to service dog controversy

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BATON ROUGE - A former serviceman, his wife and service dog will be bound home for Rhode Island tomorrow after mishap with the Baton Rouge bus system left them stranded here last week.

Darren Nickols and his family were told they couldn't board a CATS bus after grabbing dinner in the city during a layover. The denial caused them to miss their connecting bus at the Greyhound station.

The Investigative Unit has learned that driver is now under investigation. In an email Thursday, a CATS spokesperson said the driver's refusal to allow a service dog to board violated the transit system's policy.

CATS has bought the family another set of Greyhound tickets home on a bus that leaves Baton Rouge Friday afternoon.

"At least we're going home, that's a blessing," Nichols says.

According to Nickols, CATS told the family that in order for the bus system to cover the cost of the trip, the Nickols' has to sign a letter agreeing not to hold CATS accountable for what happened.

"I'll never release them from responsibility from what they've done," Nichols told News 2's Brett Buffington.

Not allowing Dasher on the bus may have also violated Louisiana law that mandates service animals be allowed in public places.

"For me losing my job, for losing everything we've had because of a bus ride, it's unacceptable," Nickols explains.

Though they are headed home, the Nickols say they aren't ready to put the issue to rest, and insist CATS will be hearing from their lawyer.

"My wife and dog depend on me, and I feel real worthless right now because of it," he says.

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