COUNTY NEWS: Garage apologises after 'unacceptable' guide dog row

A blind woman has spoken of her shock after she and her guide dog were refused entry to a petrol station shop in Sussex.
Dawn Penney and her guide dog WallaceDawn Penney and her guide dog Wallace
Dawn Penney and her guide dog Wallace

Dawn Penney and her Labrador guide dog Wallace had been out walking in Bexhill on Tuesday, May 8, when she stopped at Sidley BP Garage to buy water.

To her shock, the shop staff refused to allow Wallace to enter the store for ‘food hygiene reasons’ despite guide dogs being exempt .

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Dawn said: “I tried to explain to them that it was against the law to refuse but they wouldn’t let them in. I gave them plenty of chances to do the right thing but they wouldn’t listen.

“It really upset Wallace and its taken me days to get him to even set foot in a shop again. He just puts the brakes on. He’s got the idea that it’s wrong and it’s been difficult to convince him that it is alright.”

After the incident Dawn contacted the store – which is franchise owned and operated by MHR Retail – to raise her concerns.

This week an MHR spokesman said: “The treatment Mrs Penny received is absolutely unacceptable and falls well below our expectations. All staff on site are made aware of our Guide Dog policy when they commence employment, and MRH takes any kind of discrimination extremely seriously, operating a zero tolerance policy to protect the rights of our customers and site staff.

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“We would like to apologise for the incident and, following our investigation, we can confirm the independent retailer in question has since taken appropriate action – the cashier involved has been retrained on the correct customer service policies and procedures, as well as our Guide Dog policy.”

Dawn is keen to highlight the incident and urges other shopkeepers and businesses to be aware of both the law and the emotional impact.

Dawn said: “It can be really upsetting for something like this to happen. Some days you don’t want to go outside and deal with it. It can all be very isolating.”

Commenting on the case a spokesman for the charity Guide Dogs said: “A guide dog will provide someone with independence, freedom and confidence to get out and about just like everyone else, it is therefore crushing and rejecting to be refused entry into a shop. It is unacceptable that in this day and age this type of situation is still happening.”

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