TOUGH action is being demanded against businesses which turn away guide dogs.
More than three quarters of guide and assistance dog owners have been turned away from a shop, restaurant, taxi or bar because of their dog – despite doing so being against the law.
There was a recent high-profile incident in Coventry when staff at the PGR restaurant were filmed turning away a diner after claiming they could not permit her guide dog.
But the charity Guide Dogs wants to see changes made to the law which will put an end to the discrimination.
It is demanding bigger fines for taxi drivers who turn an assistance dog owner away, training for all private hire and taxi drivers and greater awareness for staff in businesses dealing directly with the public.
Guide dog volunteer Jo Dawson says businesses in Leamington and Warwick rarely turn people away – being more familiar with them as a training centre – but across the rest of the country it can be a real issue.
She said: “People rely on their assistance dogs and it can be devastating for an owner to be turned away by a taxi, restaurant or shop because their dog isn’t welcome. It shatters people’s confidence and can prevent many from doing the ordinary things that most people take for granted.
“We know that shops and restaurants in Leamington and Warwick are really supportive of this but we wanted to be able to raise awareness that this is still happening in other areas of the country.”
Guide Dogs has launched a petition calling for government to strengthen the law to help owners.
Guide Dogs campaign manager James White said: “Although there are already laws in place to prevent service providers from telling an owner that their assistance dog isn’t welcome, these access refusals happen far too frequently.
“We want government to strengthen the law and bring this to an end. People in the district can help us end this everyday form of discrimination by signing our petition online.”
Visit www.guidedogs.org.uk to sign.