Charities angered as blind man’s guide dog is denied a drink of water at café

PUBLISHED: 17:28 07 June 2018 | UPDATED: 11:51 08 June 2018

Helen, Sydney and Ollie. Picture by Archant.

Helen, Sydney and Ollie. Picture by Archant.


National animal charities have hit out at an Exmouth coffee shop for refusing a guide dog a drink of water on a hot summer’s day.

Helen and Ollie. Picture by Archant.Helen and Ollie. Picture by Archant.

Blind Olliver Gibbons, 40, from Brixington, was denied a drink for his dog in 20 degree heat by staff at Caffe Nero, in Chapel Street, and told ‘no’ when he explained the animal was working.

Caffe Nero told the Journal it had launched an investigation and it was not its policy to refuse water to guide dogs.

Olliver’s guide dog, seven-year-old Labrador, Sydney, had been desperate for a drink of water on a hot day after safely helping his owner around Exmouth and being rewarded with some rare free time off the harness.

Olliver’s friend, Helen Fox, who helps him live independently, said they were customers at Caffe Nero when they asked a worker for a drink for Sydney, but were told ‘no, we don’t give water for dogs’.

Left to right, Adrian Boase, Helen Fox, Ollie and Sydney. Picture by Archant.Left to right, Adrian Boase, Helen Fox, Ollie and Sydney. Picture by Archant.

Married mum-of-two Helen, aged 47, from Brixington, said: “I said, ‘he’s a guide dog’, but they just said ‘no’ and walked off.

“It was really hot, he had been working and we had just taken him off the harness for a free run.

“I was taken aback – any dog should be allowed a drink, but he is also a working dog.

“Ollie doesn’t want to go back again. It made him quite sad, really. He was asking why they were being like that.”

Left to right, owner of Tempus Jewellers, Adrian Boase, Helen Fox and Ollie. Picture by Archant.Left to right, owner of Tempus Jewellers, Adrian Boase, Helen Fox and Ollie. Picture by Archant.

Helen thanked Adrian Boase, at Tempus the Jeweller, in Albion Street, for giving Sydney water.

Guide Dogs South West spokesman Clive Wood said: “It’s very disappointing that the staff in this Caffe Nero made a decision to deny providing water to this gentleman’s guide dog on such a warm day. It’s disappointing that the level of customer service fell lower than expected from a national chain.”

An RSPCA spokesperson said: “It’s extremely concerning to hear that a coffee shop refused to provide drinking water for a service dog whose handler was a customer. We would expect all businesses to show kindness and compassion towards all animals, but particularly to service dogs.

“Service dogs are always by their handler’s side and provide a valuable, life-changing service, so we would hope that businesses would cater to their needs, as well as that of their owners.”

Helen, Sydney and Ollie. Picture by Archant.Helen, Sydney and Ollie. Picture by Archant.

A spokesman for Caffe Nero said: “We are aware of this incident, and are in the process of investigating exactly what happened.

“We absolutely comply with the legalisation on access for guide dogs in all stores.

“It is not our policy to refuse water to guide dogs; we 
are not able to have our 
own water bowls for dogs in store for health and safety reasons.”

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