Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
Nick Smith MP is backing a charity’s campaign to raise awareness of discrimination against guide dog owners.
The Blaenau Gwent MP attended an event in Parliament run by the charity Guide Dogs to hear guide dog owners talk about the impact of being turned away by businesses because of their dog.
It is against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog, except in the most exceptional circumstances.
However, a Guide Dogs survey found that in Wales three quarters of assistance dog owners reported that they had been refused entry by businesses.
Businesses that closed their doors to assistance dog owners included shops, supermarkets, gyms, campsites, places of worship, public transport, taxis and minicabs, pubs and hotels.
In a one-year period, 42% of assistance dog owners in Wales said they were refused by a taxi or PHV driver because of their assistance dog.
Nick Smith MP said: “It was alarming to hear how guide dog owners are sometimes turned away by businesses.
“As well as being embarrassing, refusals can undermine the independence that assistance dogs give their owners.
“These refusals are not just examples of poor customer service, but are actually against the law.
“I support Guide Dogs’ Access All Areas campaign to open all doors to guide dog owners this Christmas.”
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, said: “It’s against the law for a business to close their doors to someone because of their assistance dog, but it’s still a daily concern for many guide dog owners going about their lives.
“When you rely on your guide dog to get around, leaving the dog outside is not an option. Businesses shouldn’t be allowed to make guide dog owners feel like second-class citizens.
“That’s why we’re calling for better enforcement of the law, and better staff training in some sectors to stop this discrimination from happening in the first place.”