Sophie's choice: ride or stay put

This department of 'public service' is failing people trying to make a life with disability.

Dr William Silk

Bullaburra resident, Dr William Silk, and his assistance dog, Sophie, have been grounded for more than six months because of a bureaucratic bungle.

Last year, Dr Silk, 76, submitted an application for a renewal of his animal assistance pass. He is still waiting.

Dr Silk suffers from chronic disability and has been supported by Sophie since 2015. In early December, he put in his application for a 12-month renewal of his pass with an attached certificate of animal assistance skills.

Without the pass, he has to either forgo the use of transportation altogether, or risk being fined in order to get to his appointments.

He has attempted to contact Transport for NSW on numerous occasions but has struggled to make it past the switchboard.

"After waiting five months for any kind of response other than a cut-off at the switch, I received a phone call in April from a woman who worked for Transport. She assured me that she had no problems with the skills of my dog or me - we had, after all, been awarded a pass each of the six years previously. Our pass had been approved and my pass would be in the mail within the week.

"That was over a month ago and there's still no sign of it.

"The prevarication and lies I've encountered may have reasons I'm not privy to, but I do know that this department of 'public service' is failing people trying to make a life with disability," he said.

Blue Mountains MP, Trish Doyle, has tried to help Dr Silk, writing twice to the transport minister, Andrew Constance, without any result. She said it was "outrageous" that no one had tried to fix the bureaucratic glitch.

"It should not be taking six months for a government agency to send out a card in the mail, especially when that card is needed for Dr Silk and Sophie to access public transport legally," Ms Doyle said.

Finally, last week, Ms Doyle issued a press release about Dr Silk's plight, which the Gazette forwarded to Transport for NSW. The response was swift.

"A processing delay of this nature is totally unacceptable and we offer our unreserved apologies to Dr Silk for the inconvenience this has caused," a spokesman said.

"We've reached out to Dr Silk and advised him that his application has now been successfully processed and should arrive by post in the coming days.

"We'll be reviewing our processes as a priority to ensure instances like these do not happen again."

Ms Doyle responded: "It is both heartless and cruel for the minister to turn a blind eye to the immense anxiety and stress that this has caused Dr Silk. People who rely on support animals when travelling deserve better."

Dr Silk has been checking his letterbox regularly but, as the time of the Gazette going to press, was still patiently waiting.

Doggone it: Blue Mountains MP, Trish Doyle, with Dr William Silk and Sophie the assistance dog, who have had a long wait for a travel pass

Doggone it: Blue Mountains MP, Trish Doyle, with Dr William Silk and Sophie the assistance dog, who have had a long wait for a travel pass