81% of guide dog owners illegally refused entry to a business or service, study reveals

The charity Guide Dogs has revealed 81% of guide dog owners have been refused entry to a business or service.

In the last 12 months, some 73% of the people who completed a survey say they have experienced an 'access refusal' because of their guide dogs.

What is an access refusal?

An access refusal is when a guide dog owner is told they cannot enter a business, access a service, or is challenged about their entry because they have their dog with them.

The law gives assistance dog owners - including guide dog owners - the right to access businesses and services without discrimination.

Throughout a recent campaign week, local businesses in Dumfries and Galloway were reminded of their legal responsibilities and asked to think how they can help welcome guide dog owners.

This was intended to reduce the number of access refusals and increase the confidence of guide dog owners in going to local shops.

Those affected say access refusals have a significant impact on their confidence, independence and wellbeing.

Pawel, who's legally blind and relies on his dog Pepper, has been refused entry to restaurants and hotels in the past.

He said: "I have had Pepper for a year and a half now and he is my right hand - or I should say left hand as he is always on the left hand side of me.

"I can not move out anywhere basically without him.

"It was last year when I my friend took me on a trip in the UK and booked a B&B and on arrival the person basically refused us entry.

"They were pushing us away from his house and closing the door in front of us. We did not get any explanation if this was the guide dog.

"We had just travelled six and a half hours and we had to immediately go to plan B and look within a few minutes some alternative accommodation."

When asked how refusals make him feel, Pawel said: "Sad, stressed, it basically makes you feel like less of a human. It feels like it is not right.

"It is not my choice that I can not see, the situation is on me and I am trying to do things the best I can, but without Pepper I can not go out anywhere."

In the Scottish Borders, June Lochead trains puppies aiming to become guide dogs.

She's been taking part in a campaign to raise awareness of access rights for those with canine helpers.

She said: "People have been surprised to hear the amount of refusals that Guide Dogs survey has opened up.

"It does come down to a lot of the staff not being as educated on the legalities of refusing. It is not just guide dogs, it is all types of assistance dogs."

The 'Let’s Open Doors' report revealed access refusals are not isolated to one particular industry, with guide dog owners reporting access refusals at food and drink establishments and shops, as well as having issues with taxis and private hire vehicles.

Helen Honstvet, senior policy, public affairs and campaigns manager, at Guide Dogs, said: "Guide dog owners deserve to be able to live their lives the way they want and feel confident, independent, and supported in the world.

"The law is clear, and yet guide dog owners continue to experience access refusals, which are almost always illegal."

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