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Removal Of Blind Man, Service Dog From Flight Sparks Outrage

When the crew members aboard a US Airways plane removed a blind man and his service dog from a flight before takeoff on Wednesday, they probably weren't expecting a full-scale passenger mutiny.

As Albert Rizzi and Doxy waited on the airplane while it sat delayed on the tarmac in Philadelphia, the seeing-eye dog apparently got fidgety and, according to US Airways, started walking the aisles instead of staying put in his seat as the airline's rules say. That's when a flight attendant insisted that Rizzi and his dog would have to leave the plane.

"I said to her, 'I really don't understand what the issue is. I can't do anything,' " Rizzi was quoted by ABC's WPVI as saying.

WPVI says:

"Rizzi said the flight attendant then informed him the dog had to be under a seat or the plane would have to turn around.

"US Airways says Rizzi became verbally abusive, and that other passengers became argumentative, sparking safety concerns.

"Passenger Frank Ohlhorst described what happened.

" 'When we, the passengers, realized what was going on, we were, like, "Why is this happening? He's not a problem. What is going on?" ' said Ohlhorst. 'And we all kind of raised our voices and said, "This is a real problem." The captain came out of the cockpit and he basically asked us all to leave the aircraft.' "

Another passenger tweeted:

A US Airways spokesman confirmed that "on flight 4384 from Philadelphia to Islip, Long Island a customer with a seeing eye dog was asked to keep his dog near his feet when the dog was walking up and down the aisle.

"When a flight attendant asked the passenger to keep the dog where it needed to stay for safety reasons the passenger got verbally abusive. A decision was made to return to the gate to take the passenger and the dog off the plane. At that point, other customers were unhappy about the situation. The crew did not feel comfortable operating the plane so a decision was made to cancel the flight and US Airways [bused] the passengers to Islip NY," the spokesperson said.

CBS New York reports that Rizzi is now considering a lawsuit against US Airways.

In August, The Two-Way's Bill Chappell reported about a former Army soldier, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, who received a summons after police refused to accept the presence of his service dog at a boardwalk in New Jersey.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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