East Devon MP's outrage at 'guide dog in taxi boot' claim

PUBLISHED: 06:30 20 June 2016

Archant

East Devon MP Hugo Swire is calling for action after being told of guide dog owners being denied service in Exmouth.

Mr Swire says he has heard allegations of owners being turned away by businesses and taxis – and of taxi drivers trying to put guide dogs in the boot of their cars.

The allegations were made to Mr Swire by an Exmouth resident at an event at Westminster organised by Guide Dogs, to lobby Parliament on issues faced by guide dog users.

Writing in the Journal this week, Mr Swire said: “I had a good chat with two constituents, one of whom was from Exmouth.

“I was outraged to hear from him that a number of taxis, shops and restaurants in Exmouth are still turning away people with guide dogs.

“Apparently, some taxi drivers actually try and put the guide dogs in the closed boots of their cabs, as they don’t want to get dog hair on their car seats.”

Responding to the allegations, Steve Glover, chairman of the Exmouth Taxi Association, said its members were fully aware of their responsibilities regarding guide dogs. He said: “It’s against the law to refuse to take a guide dog in a taxi, so if anyone wants to do that, if they get sacked out of the game, I’m all for it.

“In Exmouth, we accommodate people with dogs, let alone people with guide dogs. Guide dogs are the most adorable animals you’d ever wish to meet.

“I don’t think any of us in Exmouth would turn away a guide dog.

“If that did happen, they would have every other driver on their back.

“All the members are fully aware that guide dogs officially have to be taken. If somebody has been declined a lift with a guide dog, I feel very sorry for them, and I would love to take them for a ride free of charge.”

Mr Swire, a vice-president of the WESC Foundation, said that he would like anyone with evidence of guide dogs being refused service to contact him by emailing hugo.swire.mp@parliament.uk

He added: “In the long term, I think we need to look at mandatory disability awareness for taxi drivers, better enforcement of access refusal cases by relevant authorities, and for magistrates to be able to issue an appropriate level of fine to act as a deterrent for those who flout the law.”

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