Editors Note: This campaign is very necessary. I am still refused access to places because of my seeing eye dog, Charlie, and also with previous guide dogs. Taxis continue to be an absolute nightmare and cause real stress as you just don’t know if the driver will accept you or not.
Fifty-five percent of people who use a Seeing Eye Dog say they have been refused access to a public place, which is why Vision Australia has today launched its “Paws with Purpose campaign” in a bid to put an end to discrimination for people who are accompanied by a Seeing Eye Dog.
Seeing Eye Dogs Australia General Manager, Mr Leigh Garwood said that even though laws protecting the rights of handlers have been in place for over 50 years too many handlers still face discrimination while going about their daily lives.
“The six-legged partnership that develops between a person and their Seeing Eye Dog provides the person with access to life, for life,” said Mr Garwood
“Unfortunately, our research shows that one in two handlers feel discriminated against while out with a Seeing Eye Dog and more than half have been refused access to a public space. This discrimination involves the person being questioned or denied access in everyday situations that most Australians take for granted. Like catching a taxi, entering a building or enjoying a meal in a café.”
State Governments first legislated to protect the rights of people with Seeing Eye Dogs in the 1960s and since then, several governments have extended these protections to puppies in training. Nationally, the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 also protects people with disability who are paired with an assistance animal.
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“However there is not enough consistency in access laws across the states. In Queensland, dogs have rights at all stages of their life and stiff penalties apply to individuals and businesses when these rights are violated. However, in Victoria there is no system of penalties and volunteers working with puppies are not explicitly mentioned in the legislation,” confirmed Mr Garwood.
Mr Garwood said that laws alone cannot stop discrimination and that the community and businesses must act in accordance with the law. Part of Seeing Eye Dogs Australia’s education campaign involves reaching out to these groups to show their support for the organisation’s Paws with Purpose campaign.
“We need taxi drivers to stop refusing passengers who have a Seeing Eye Dog. We want the security guard to accept that a person can enter a building with their dog in training. We also ask people in the community to stop asking the shop owner to tell a volunteer carer to take their puppy outside.
“These are all real examples of the stories we hear from our handlers and they reflect the disappointing reality that our handlers face every day when they are out and about.”
Vision Australia is asking all Australians to back dogs that have paws with purpose and tweet a photo of themselves with a dog bowl and a message of support to @visionaustralia #pawswithpurpose #seeingeyedogsaustralia #IGDD
“This small act will help to spread the educational message our handlers have rights and are supported whenever and wherever they are in our communities.”
To find out what life is like as a working Seeing Eye Dog Paws with purpose, a day in the life of a working Seeing Eye Dog.