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Santa Ynez Valley Transit service dog training

John Webb, from Roadrunner Management Services, helps a trainer familiarize a service dog with a wheelchair lift on a Santa Ynez Valley Transit bus during the April 7 Psychiatric Service Dog Partners convention in Solvang.

Santa Ynez Valley Transit supported service dog training by providing the use of a bus and driver to help the dogs become familiar and comfortable with public transit operations.

The transit system donated the bus and driver’s time so teams from Psychiatric Service Dog Partners could train during the organization’s annual international convention April 7 at the Solvang Veterans Memorial Building.

Psychiatric Service Dog Partners is a nonprofit organization that operates multiple programs to assist the public and service dog teams.

When convention coordinator Chanda Hagen was driving through Solvang to familiarize herself with the area prior to the convention, she noticed a distinctive Santa Ynez Valley Transit bus and decided to incorporate public transit training in the 2018 convention events.

“I thought it would be great to train the dogs to work in and around a stationary and moving bus,” Hagen said. “So I called the city, and it offered to donate the use of a bus and driver.”

John Webb, a representative of Roadrunner Management Services, the transit company’s contracted bus operator, spent an hour and a half demonstrating various transit procedures at the convention.

Trainers worked the dogs through the use of wheelchair lifts as well as safety measures for boarding and alighting from a bus.

Webb also answered questions from more than a dozen trainers attending the convention with their service dogs.

“This donation represents an important partnership between SYVT and our riders who rely on service dogs to travel,” said Matt van der Linden, Solvang Public Works director and city engineer.

“The opportunity to participate in the actual training of these animals will add to our understanding of the support service dogs provide,” he added.

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Van der Linden noted Santa Ynez Valley Transit subscribes to the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines for service animals, which are allowed on SYVT buses at no additional charge.

Service animals are defined by the ADA as “any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including but not limited to guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.”

Santa Ynez Valley Transit is funded through a joint-powers agreement by the cities of Buellton and Solvang and Santa Barbara County; daily operation is contracted to Roadrunner Management Services.

For more information, visit www.syvt.com or call the transit office at 688-5452.

This report was compiled by News Editor Mike Hodgson. He can be reached at mhodgson@leecentralcoastnews.com.

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