I recently met with Guide Dogs to hear about their #OpenDoorsForGuideDogs campaign. Following this meeting, I have written to the Minister to urge him to do more to end the mistreatment of assistance dog owners.
Tom Pursglove MP
Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work
Department for Work and Pensions
Treatment of Assistance Dog Owners
I’m writing to you today to outline my concerns regarding the treatment of those who use assistance dogs can face conducting their daily business.
Under the terms of the Equality Act 2010, the rights of assistance dog owners are enshrined as those with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else to use the services supplied by shops, banks, hotels, libraries, pubs, taxis and restaurants.
However, in a survey conducted by Guide Dogs UK, 81% of assistance dog users reported that they have been refused access to a business; or challenged before entry into a business, because of their dog. Worryingly, 73% of respondents reported that this has occurred in the last 12 months.
One of my constituents, Beverly, wrote to me about how important the independence assistance dogs provide to their owners, giving them the confidence to leave the house and engage with their community. Meeting with friends and family at cafes, pubs, and restaurants is an integral part of life, and do so without a second thought, but many of us will have never considered the barriers to entry that some in society will face.
Worryingly, it is food and drink outlets where assistance dog owners report facing the most difficulty at gaining accesses to. Nearly 50% of retail staff and nearly 20% of hospitality staff were unaware that refusing access to an assistance dog is illegal, according to Guide Dogs UK, which is a direct violation of the Equality Act.
I urge you to commit in the forthcoming Disability Action Plan to create an explicit requirement, codified in law, that businesses must accept assistance dogs as is already the case for taxis and private higher vehicles.
This is an important step as it would help businesses understand their legal responsibilities better and further enshrine legal protections for assistance dog owners.
Gill Furniss MP
Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough