Verbal abuse over hearing dog
A partially deaf Tokoroa man is calling for more acceptance and understanding of people with disability dogs following ongoing abuse from strangers.
A South Waikato District Council bylaw prevents dogs from being taken into town but Roger Drower has special permission to do so with Harper, his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Despite having permission it doesn’t stop some people from having a go, which he says is often worse for men.
‘‘[I’ve been told] I shouldn’t show that I have a disability because I am a male,’’ he said.
‘‘There needs to be greater understanding that males do have disabilities as well and may need a disability dog.’’
‘‘I find it hard to hear in crowds or with background noise around me. Hearing aids just amplify everything, including the background noise, not just the people talking.’’
‘‘Having Harper means I have a greater sense of security and I am less reliant on my wife and young children.’’
Drower said people also needed to be aware that disability dogs could be taken wherever their owners go.
‘‘As helping professionals they have special privileges and right of access under the Government Dog Control Amendment Act 2006. They are also protected from discrimination under the Human right Act 1993,’’ he said.
‘‘There are six organisations in New Zealand that can certify dogs for legal public access which means the dog can go with the owner into areas where most dogs can’t.’’
He said that included places that served food, retail shops, doctors, hospitals, libraries, courthouses supermarkets, and even the movies.
Public transport such as buses, ferries, taxis, planes, ships and trains were also not of limits.
‘‘Denying us is a serious offence,’’ Drower said.
Hearing Dogs New Zealand general manager Clare Mclaughlin said it was uncommon but not unheard of for deaf people to be abused by strangers.
‘‘Most people are lovely but sometimes we find people just don’t understand what a hearing dog is,’’ she said.
‘‘Everyone knows about guide dogs, they have been around forever, but hearing dogs work with people with an invisible disability. You don’t necessarily see hearing aids so often that person can come across a little bit rude but often it’s just because they haven’t heard you.’’
Drower said if people have questions all they needed to do was ask.
‘‘Some people are unsure about approaching us but if you want to ask a question don’t be afraid to ask,’’ he said. Waikato Regional Council senior scientist Jonathan Caldwell said a further 108 kilograms of PM10 needs to be reduced over winter to bring Tokoroa’s air quality into line.
While replacing old woodburners would help, Caldwell said people’s behaviour also needed to change.
‘‘If we remove all of the 492 non-compliant woodburners, 39 open fires, and 92 multi-fuel burners remaining in Tokoroa and replace them with 80 per cent compliant woodburners and 20 per cent heat pumps.
‘‘I predict we will only move about 85kg of PM10 so we still have about 27 PM10 to remove,’’ he said.
He said ensuring people were only burning dry wood which is not treated or painted, cleaning chimneys, and checking flue heights were sufficient were essential if the target was to be met.
‘‘If you upgrade to a compliant woodburner you can get two to three times less PM10 emissions as long as you are operating it properly and burning dry wood,’’ he said.
‘‘Also make sure you are not over cramming and that you’re using good kindling to get the fire going.
‘‘If you have got a damper, you don’t want to be using that because when you damp down you get smouldering and high levels of PM10 emissions.’’
‘‘It is also not appropriate to be burning rubbish and garden waste in an urban area,’’ he said.
Tokoroa’s Roger Drower with his disability hearing dog Harper.