Not welcome - Debs and her guide dog
PUBLISHED: 15:00 11 March 2015 | UPDATED: 15:00 11 March 2015
A guide dog user from Littleham has told how she was made to feel like a ‘second class citizen’ when she was refused access to an Exmouth restaurant.
Debbie Palmer was refused entry to one of the town’s eateries after the waiter claimed her black, three-year-old guide dog, Pearl, would upset the other diners.
Guide Dogs UK, the charity for the blind and partially sighted, said the number of guide dog owners turned away from restaurants in Exmouth was ‘particularly acute’.
The charity said it had received complaints about four different restaurants in Exmouth within the past year.
Debbie, who enjoys eating out with friends, was told by the restaurant she could sit in the foyer.
“The waiter told me he knew that he could not refuse to serve me, but he did not want my dog in the main part of the restaurant as he said that it might upset other customers,” said Debbie.
“This made me feel like a second class citizen and I was very angry with the treatment I received.
“Why should I and my friends, who were with me, be treated differently to other people?
“My guide dog, Pearl, just settles down under the table and no one knows that she is there.”
Labrador-retriever Pearl is Debbie’s fourth guide dog. With her dog to guide her, Debbie is able to lead an active and independent life.
Debbie added: “Many restaurants in Exmouth are very pleased to see me and Pearl, but I hope that, as a result of this publicity, all restaurants will be willing to make us welcome.”
Guide Dogs UK said the equality law in this country was ‘very clear’. A person who is blind or partially sighted is entitled to take their guide dog into a restaurant or café. Anyone refusing to allow access is committing an offence and could face a ‘substantial’ fine.
Neil Howe, of Guide Dogs South West, said many restaurant proprietors and their staff appeared to be unaware of their legal obligations
He said: “Almost every week, I hear about incidents like Debbie’s.
“I contact the restaurants concerned and explain the law, but I find it difficult to understand why staff working in restaurants do not receive appropriate training.”
Mr Howe said guide dogs were trained to behave in all types of situations.
“In a restaurant, they will lie down patiently under a table. They are groomed regularly and their heath is carefuly monitored, so they do not present a health hazard, which is often given as a reason for refusing to allow them to enter a restaurant.
“Many restaurants that do allow guide dogs do so with bad grace.”
● Debbie hopes restaurants in Exmouth will display an Assistance Dogs Welcome sticker in the window. The stickers are available from Guide Dogs UK.
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