Barking and Dagenham dog ban is illegal

BARKING AND Dagenham Council have moved swiftly with advice to eating establishments after some have refused to allow blind people with guide dogs onto their premises. After receiving a string of complaints from residents, Town Hall officials will be advi

BARKING AND Dagenham Council have moved swiftly with advice to eating establishments after some have refused to allow blind people with guide dogs onto their premises.

After receiving a string of complaints from residents, Town Hall officials will be advising the food outlet owners that banning guide dogs is breaking the law.

One guide dog owner, Mark Parham, claims he has been turned away from numerous cafes, restaurants, shops and taxis in the borough.

Mr Parham, of Cavendish Road, Barking says 95 per cent of the establishments who refuse his German Shepherd entry, are run by people of the Islamic Faith.

The problem was highlighted in the POST letters pages when a lady correspondent explained that 'if the shop owners were Islamic, their faith dictated that a dog's saliva was unclean or impure, and could explain the genuine reason for refusal'.

The council says its staff, including trading standards officers, health and safety and food hygiene inspectors, will now remind restaurant and caf� owners of the law regarding guide dog access as part of their existing inspections.

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Mr Parham welcomes the authority's plans, but added:

"Although I think it's a step forward I doubt much will be done to enforce the law. If you are stopped from going into a caf� because you have a guide dog, you can't call the police, because it is a civil matter. Instead you have to take the case to court yourself, which can take a long time and cost money - so many people don't bother."

Mr Parham, whose wife comes from an Islamic background, thinks it would be more effective if representatives from the Muslim community tried to encourage other Muslims to stop viewing dogs as unclean.

The 39-year-old lecturer added: "The British Association of Muslims has actually stated that there is nothing in the Qu'ran claiming dogs are unclean.

"It seems as if it is a cultural thing. "

A spokesperson for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said that any guide dog owner refused service should contact them.

He said: "We can then send the business in question a letter explaining the law regarding guide dogs.

"If this is not sufficient then we can offer support to the guide dog owner if he/she wants to take the case to court."

l At the time of going to press we were unable to get a response from Muslim groups

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