Visitor with guide dog was turned away on Catbus’ first day.

March 16 was a very exciting day for fans of Studio Ghibli. On that day, the real-world Catbus made its debut, transporting visitors around the grounds of Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, the public park inside which the disconnected sections of the Ghibli Park anime theme park are located.

However, the happy mood was dampened for one would-be Cabus passenger, who was informed that they would be unable to board the feline vehicle because of their canine companion.

▼ The real-world Catbus

Generally speaking, dogs are not allowed on trains, buses, and other modes of public transport in Japan unless they’re placed in some sort of enclosure, such as a carrier pouch or box. The visitor who wanted to ride the Catbus had brought no such enclosure of their own, and the Catbus isn’t equipped with any such compartment either. With the Catbus being doorless, the staff was concerned that the dog might jump out of the vehicle while it was in motion, potentially injuring itself, other passengers, or passersby, and so they informed the visitor that they, and their animal, would not be able to board.

However, this wasn’t just any pet, but a guide/service dog, for whom exceptions are usually made for transportation and other ordinarily no-animals-allowed spaces. Once the incident became known to higher-ups, the Aichi prefectural government, which manages Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, consulted with various welfare organizations about the situation, through which it arrived at the conclusion that service animals’ training makes them unlikely to create a safety risk while onboard, and now passengers with service dogs are officially allowed on the Catbus.

The policy revision was actually made on March 29, but only started getting widespread attention following Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura’s regularly scheduled press conference on April 16. “The only explanation I can offer is that we were insufficiently aware that service dogs will not suddenly jump out [of a moving vehicle],” Omura said in addressing the issue. “We deeply apologize to the visitor who was not allowed [to board the Catbus].” He also added that the administration is thoroughly directing park operators to ensure that all visitors can enjoy themselves, and that a special invitation is being planned for members of the Chubu (central Japan) Guide Dog Association and Japan Service Dog Association to visit the park and ride the Catbus later this month.

Source: Line News/CBC TV via Jin, NHK News Web
Top image: Studio Ghibli
Insert images: Aichi Prefecture
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