During the last few weeks, I’ve had an alarming amount of people tell me that my dog isn’t allowed in their shop/on their premises. It’s really distressing.
The moment I point out that she’s an assistance dog (in training), they are pretty quick to try to backtrack. The thing is, once they’ve yelled across the shop floor, drawn attention to us or been rude to me, the chances of my wanting to continue to shop with them is nil. When they open their mouths rather than their eyes, as far as I’m concerned, the damage is already done.
I’m so sick and tired of the lack of awareness and of people just assuming. Bubba Gump is also sick of it…
Look Before You Judge
A couple of weeks ago, I attended my children’s sports day. I phoned the school in advance to let them know I would be attending and they were perfectly fine with my having an assistance dog with me. The receptionist put me on hold so she could go and check with someone else. It really shouldn’t be down to me to have to educate people regarding the law surrounding assistance dogs to people working in places open to the public.
I believe people who work in the public sector should be taught awareness and the basic laws regarding equality and discrimination. It’s not difficult to find:
Going to sports day was a massive deal for me and just getting there was so difficult. The moment I got near the school field, a dinner lady rushed straight up to me and told me, quite loudly for others to hear, “You can’t have your dog on the school grounds”. Really? REALLY????? This made me so cross. She made a judgement without looking and acted upon it. It had a really negative impact on me. She couldn’t apologise enough once she’d realised her mistake, but again, after her instant judgement, the damage was done. If I’d been in a wheelchair, I guarantee that she’d have automatically realised Bubba Gump was an assistance dog.
Who in their right mind would be wandering around with a pet dog wearing a jacket in the summer??? Surely that alone would make people pay attention and question? Obviously, on the days when it’s too hot to take Bubba Gump out, we both just stay at home.
This is what Bubba Gump looks like when she’s working. I don’t think she looks like a random pet dog.
Assistance Dog (In Training)
Now, Bubba Bump is technically still in training. Her jacket says she’s in training and it’s no secret that she’s still in training. She’s ready to take her public access, after which, she’ll be qualified. I haven’t been in a hurry for her to take the test because it requires doing things I find extremely difficult, for example, going to a cafe for a drink, etc.
Whilst Bubba Gump is still “in training”, places that offer a public service are allowed to refuse her entry on the basis that she isn’t fully qualified. People don’t though. Not on the in training basis. I’ve never come across it.
Bubba Gump is trained to an extremely high standard and, when she is working, behaves beautifully.
My Assistance Dog & I
Bubba Gump is an extremely focused assistance dog and is very tuned in to me. I don’t go anywhere without her. We’ve been together 24/7 since she was eight weeks old and has saved my life on more than one occasion. Really. If it wasn’t for her, I would not be here, writing this at 1am.
The stigma isn’t broken. I know I’m not supposed to be, but I do feel ashamed of my illness, which is why it hurts so much when people question my dog’s presence.
You can’t see my disability and I don’t like it when people ask why I have an assistance dog or what my dog does. It’s really personal. It’s like asking someone how big their appendage is, it’s not acceptable and it’s none of your business.
Please don’t ask people this.
All you need to know is this; In order to have an assistance dog in this country, you must have medical proof that you are disabled. If a person has an assistance dog, that is all you need to know.
ALL assistance dog owners are protected under the Equality Act of 2010. You can read the official legislation here.
If you offer a service to members of the public, whether for profit or not, access is required by law. An assistance dog is an aid to a disabled person and by denying them access, you’re discriminating against them.
The only exceptions to this law, as far as I know, are medically sterile environments (for example, operating theatres, some surgical wards/intensive care units in hospitals) for human health and safety, food preparation areas, most public swimming pools and zoos (for the dog’s welfare).
If you refuse an assistance dog entry, you’re breaking the law.
Having an invisible illness is so hard. People are more understanding and accepting when they can see the problem.
If this teaches even one person a little more about assistance dogs in the UK, I’m glad I’m here writing this and not sleeping. You can read more of my writings about assistance dogs here.
If you’ve ever been rude to a disabled person and are currently feeling like you’d like to right your bad karma – Do feel free to pop along to the Canine Generated Independence page and offer a donation.