Blind woman 'humiliated' after experience in pub lounge with guide dog

A woman has spoken of her "humiliation" and "upset" after claiming she was asked to move from a pub lounge because she was with her guide dog.

Nicola Owen with her guide dog, Kit
Nicola Owen with her guide dog, Kit

Nicola Owen, who is registered fully blind, went to The Claregate pub in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, with her partner Carl Dainty and her guide dog, Kit.

After sitting in a lounge area of the pub, she said she was then asked to move by a member of staff for "hygiene" and "health and safety reasons", and was told that dogs are not allowed by food on the premises.

Nicola protested that she did not legally have to move but was so upset that she decided to leave the pub.

The 48-year-old from Wombourne said: “I'm extremely upset. It's humiliating.

“He told me to move and said dogs aren't allowed by food. Then he said he hadn't broken the law because he hadn't asked me to leave the premises.

“I told him that I carry ID books for her but he didn't want to know.”

Nicola added: “She's a service animal, I can go wherever I want. I can go anywhere I want in a pub.”

Kit, the seven-year-old Labrador, who is Nicola's guide dog

Nicola also claims that when she rang the pub to make a complaint, a member of staff hung up on her.

An assistant manager at the pub told the Express & Star: “She wasn't asked to leave anywhere. I asked if she wouldn't mind moving because there was a family eating at the time a table or two away from her.

“I don't know if the family have an allergy to dogs, it's a matter of health and safety. Her response was 'OK, then I'm leaving'.”

A spokesperson for the charity 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.

“Our research shows that 76 per cent of guide dog owners have been refused access to a business or service at some point, and around half said they changed or restricted their plans because they were concerned they would be refused access because of their guide dog.

“Businesses and services need to do more to ensure they have open doors to guide dog owners.”

The Claregate pub, Wolverhampton.

In a document detailing the rights of assistance dog owners, the charity adds: "The Food Standards Agency confirms that there is nothing in food safety/hygiene legislation preventing assistance dogs accessing establishments where food is served.

"The Royal Environmental Health Institute Scotland confirm that assistance dogs should be allowed into food premises as they are unlikely to be a hygiene risk because of their specialist training.”

Guide Dogs is running a campaign to end access refusals for people with assistance dogs. For more information on the Open Doors campaign, click here.

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