herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

Over 100 guide dog owners refused entry to food premises

Nicola Ryan with her son Tommy Quintero and his dog Otto
Nicola Ryan with her son Tommy Quintero and his dog Otto

Over 100 guide dog owners are refused entry to food premises every year because of confusion with the law according to the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Food Safety Authority launched an awareness campaign yesterday to highlight to business owners the rights of access of the animals to food premises.

Elaine Kennedy from Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind told the Herald that she deals with an average of two incidents every week where guide dogs have been refused entry to a food premises.

“It’s food businesses across the board including supermarkets and coffee shops – it’s not just restaurants refusing people,” Elaine said.

“Even people with guide dogs would experience access incidents as well,” she added.

Assistance dogs for families of children with autism and adolescents with autism and companion dogs for persons with other disabilities as well as pups and dogs in training for these categories are also allowed to enter food premises.

Concerned

Business owners fear food contamination if they let dogs on their premises, but Helen Crowley (inset) from the Food Safety Authority said that the dogs were groomed daily and undergo regular veterinary checks.

“We would not be concerned that the dogs would present any kind of risk of food contamination,” Helen told the Herald.

The dogs go through extensive training in order to become a safety and mobility dog.

“They know how to behave, and they quite literally go in and sit under the table or sit close to the person they are helping,” Helen said.

The dogs start training from as young as six weeks old and even have to pass a series of assessments in order to become a fully fledged working dog.

However, Helen stresses that members of the public should refrain from petting them.

“Often they have a little sign on them saying not to pet them,” Helen said. “Even though they are cute they are there to work.”

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