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Blind pair spurned by Fung Wah win $60G
2007-07-13
By Laurel J. Sweet Friday, July 13, 2007 - Updated: 04:57 AM EST
Somewhere in heaven, Adam Sten-Clanton is wagging his tail.

The state Commission Against Discrimination has ordered New York bus company Fung Wah to pay a blind Dorchester couple more than $60,000 for refusing them and their late service dog passage to the Big Apple.

“He certainly didn’t cause anybody any trouble. He was quite friendly enough,” Albert Sten-Clanton, 52, said yesterday of Adam, the faithful Labrador retriever who died in 2005, a year after Sten-Clanton and his wife Mary, 47, were turned away by a Fung Wah ticket agent in Chinatown in 15-degree weather.

“I see this decision as a strike for justice, and, I hope, a deterrent for any future behavior of this sort,” Sten-Clanton said. “It’s a simple point: Treat people right.” The MCAD decision in support of a discrimination lawsuit brought against Fung Wah by Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office also demands Fung Wah implement a service-animal policy and designate a complaint officer approved by MCAD.

Fung Wah did not respond to a request for comment.

The Sten-Clantons - Albert with Adam and Mary with a cane - were headed to Manhattan on Jan. 15, 2004, for the musical “Wicked” and chose the cut-rate carrier to save money.

Fung Wah President Pei Lin Liang, who was near a ticket seller at the Crown Royal Bakery, told the couple pets weren’t allowed because another passenger could be allergic.

In a Catch-22, Fung Wah employee Winston Kwok Chu-Lo wouldn’t even sell Mary Sten-Clanton a ticket to travel alone, telling her, “If you don’t have a dog, who is guiding you?”

MCAD found Fung Wah “made no inquiry about the dog’s training and/or behavior” and “acted on the basis of an unfounded assumption,” thus violating the Sten-Clantons’ right to accommodation under state law.

The Sten-Clantons, Broadway buffs, made their show that night, thanks to Boston police taking them to Amtrak. Adam, who was welcomed by the theater, “slept right through it,” Albert Sten-Clanton said. “When we came back from New York, we knew we had to do something.”

- lsweet@bostonherald.com