San Francisco Chronicle
Death of BART passenger tied to dog raises policy questions
The death of a woman on a BART platform, tethered to her dog inside a departing train, has raised questions about the transit system’s policies surrounding pets and service animals.
Amy Adams, a 41-year-old San Francisco resident, was dragged to death Monday afternoon at the Powell Street Station when she boarded a train with her dog tethered to her waist, then stepped off the train “at the last second,” according to BART officials. The departing train dragged her down the platform then onto the tracks, killing her.
The horrific incident occurred at about 3:16 p.m. Monday as a Dublin/Pleasanton train was leaving Powell station. It’s shocked many in the Bay Area, including BART officials, who wonder if it could have been prevented by
enforcing existing policies restricting pets on BART trains.
BART officials do not believe Adams’ dog was a service animal. A dead guinea pig was also found in the BART tunnel near the woman’s body.
Regular BART riders know that, at least prepandemic, people’s pets, from tiny Chihuahuas to pit bulls were a relatively common sight on BART trains and in stations — mostly outside of carriers.
BART allows service animals trained to work with a person’s disability, including guide dogs and signal dogs, as long as they’re on leashes or harnesses, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and hewing to the Federal Transit Administration’s requirements.
“Service animals are working animals, not pets,” the policy states. “The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.” Pets or animals providing comfort or emotional support are required to ride inside crates, carriers or cages.
BART officials, including some directors, said they’re waiting to learn the details of what happened at Powell Street Station before considering any new policies or stepping up enforcement of the uncrated pet bans.
But at least one director, Debora Allen, of Clayton, wants better enforcement — at the fare gate, inside stations and aboard trains.
Allen said she’s looked into the issue in the past and was told that a vague definition of what constitutes a service animal dissuades some police officers from strictly enforcing the policy.
BART spokesperson Alicia Trost said BART employees, including police officers, are restricted to asking whether a dog is a service animal required because of a disability and what work or task the dog has been trained to perform. They are not allowed to ask someone for proof of disability, documentation of the dog’s service-animal status or a demonstration that the dog has assistive skills.
“Anytime you make it difficult to define in the field, police are not going to push the issue,” Allen said, adding that she plans to seek a state legislator willing to propose a law creating a database of registered service animals.
But San Francisco’s two BART directors said it’s too early and perhaps unnecessary to talk about stepping up enforcement of dog rules on BART.
“We’re not sure if what happened had anything to do with our dog policy,” said Janice Li, who noted that there have been conflicting reports on whether or not the dog was a service animal. “I’m hesitant to create a policy unless we know it could help.”
Director Bevan Dufty, whose district includes the Powell Street Station, agreed.
“I am loath to delve into something that may or may not be a factor in this tragic accident,” he said.
“I think it’s unfair for me to start picking into pieces what should be done before we know what happened. I’m not yet willing to start questioning things.”
Because of the unusual circumstances of the death, the National Transportation Safety Board has sent a pair of investigators to look into the accident along with BART officials and state regulators. A preliminary report is expected within 30 days.