A Huntington, WV towing company is under scrutiny after they would not allow a combat veteran’s service dog to ride in the tow truck with him.

The decision has sparked outrage on social media. 

Kevin Sloas said his life changed when he met Eli his service dog. Eli went through a year of professional training. Then Sloas joined Eli at K9’s for Warriors and the two spent a month training together. 

“This gives me something to hang on to, kind of like a handrail,” Sloas said pointing to Eli’s leash. “He is here for me to brace and also if I get down on the ground I can brace on him and put up to 50 percent of my body weight on him and he’ll stand still until I can get up.” 

Sloas said without Eli he has trouble keeping his balance, especially on steps or in a crowd. Before he got Eli, Sloas said he spent most of his time at home and relied on others to do things like grocery shopping. 

Eli is now with Sloas around the clock. Sloas said the only place Eli does not go with him is in the shower. 

So, when Sloas’ vehicle broke down in Kenova, WV, Eli was with him. 

Sloas called AAA for help. They dispatched Nicely’s Towing. 

The tow truck driver said Eli would not be allowed in the front of the tow truck with Sloas’ and suggested Eli ride in the vehicle that was being towed. The driver also called his supervisor. 

“He indicated that there would be no dogs allowed in his vehicles because he was afraid that other people might be allergic to animals,” Sloas said. 

Nicely’s Towing supervisor Roy Holley was the person on the other end of the line. 

“By the time I talked to him he was already irate,” Holley said, regarding Sloas. “I don’t know if something set him off or what. There was just no reasoning. No talking. No nothing by the time I talked to him on the phone.” 

Holley said he offered to let the dog ride in Sloas’ car while it was towed or to call a cab for the duo. Ultimately Nicely’s driver left and another towing company came and picked them up. Holley said he told the driver to leave because emotions were running high. 

“It is unfortunate that people are not educated to service dogs,” Sloas said. 

Holley said he would have been willing to let Eli ride in one of the older tow trucks. But he said Sloas did not make the driver aware that he had a dog with him. 

 “You get that dog hair and stuff in there then you turn around and haul someone in a suit and a tie and then they complain about all of the dog hair or they are allergic,” Holley said. “You are talking about a big German Shepherd in a tight spot with a driver he don’t know and if the driver makes a wrong move even reaching over to turn something on a truck, if that dog thinks he is going for the guy is he going to attack the driver? Then what do we do?”

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act governments, businesses and nonprofits that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities anywhere the public is normally allowed to go. 

For example, at a hospital the service dog could be in the patient room, cafeteria or exam room, but not in the operating room. 

The ADA also says allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons to deny access or refuse service to people using service animals. 

Sloas posted about the incident on social media prompting debate. The towing company has also started a page for people who support their decision. 

Sloas said he wants to raise awareness and make sure this never happens again. 

“I hope this is an opportunity to educate the public as well as business owners about service dogs,” he said. 

AAA announced they are suspending use of Nicely’s towing until they can do a full investigation into the claims. 

Roy Holley said in the future he would ask that customers make it clear when they call that they have a service dog. 

Holley said he does not have a problems with veterans or with dogs and that the company does a great deal to give back and help the community.