Up­set Cou­ple and guide dog re­fused en­try to town venue

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - By ROBIN JENK­INS

AN up­mar­ket Chel­tenham food and drink venue has been crit­i­cised for twice re­fus­ing to al­low a cou­ple en­try into its premises be­cause it had a dog with them.

James Brit­tain and his girl­friend Am­ber Boodt were an­gry about be­ing turned away from No. 131, in the Prom­e­nade, be­cause they had Izma with them - a 15-month-old Labrador Re­triever Cross they are help­ing to train as a guide dog.

James said she was in a har­ness with an orange hi-vis­i­bil­ity strip on her lead that had ‘Guide dog in train­ing’ on it.

The 26-year-old was with Am­ber and her mother and her step fa­ther.

They went to the pop­u­lar ho­tel and res­tau­rant, which also has a bar called Crazy 8s, to have a drink just be­fore 8.30pm on Satur­day.

James and Am­ber are from Glouces­ter but moved to live in Leam­ing­ton Spa in War­wick­shire in April.

They got in­volved with train­ing Izma, who is one of the dogs from the Guide Dogs Na­tional Breed­ing Cen­tre that is based in the town.

Writ­ing on his Face­book page, James said: “Hugely dis­ap­pointed to have just been turned away from one of our pre­ferred places in Chel­tenham, No. 131 & Crazy 8s, be­cause there was a train­ing Guide Dog in our group. They phys­i­cally blocked us from en­ter­ing.

“What’s more shock­ing was that when we chal­lenged the duty man­ager and bounc­ers, we were told it was “group pol­icy”, that they saw no dif­fer­ence be­tween a reg­u­lar dog and a Guide Dog “be­cause it could of­fend cus­tomers”. They also asked if we had tried to get the dog into mul­ti­ple places, chanc­ing our luck.

“It left the whole group feel­ing pretty em­bar­rassed, up­set and an­gry, so we de­cided just to come home.

“But we’re for­tu­nate enough to just be train­ing a guide dog. I can’t imag­ine how some­body with gen­uinely lim­ited sight would feel af­ter an in­ci­dent like this.

“Re­fus­ing ac­cess to a Guide Dog is dis­crim­i­na­tion and it’s il­le­gal.”

James, a for­mer pupil at Rend­comb Col­lege near Cirences­ter, said the cou­ple went back to No. 131 to lodge a for­mal com­plaint about what hap­pened.

But he said staff again re­fused to al­low them to come in with Izma.

Am­ber said she and James had been tak­ing the dog out and about so she would get used to be­ing in pub­lic places, for when she is placed with a blind or vis­ually im­paired per­son.

She said Izma was trained by the cen­tre in the day­time and she and her fi­ance pro­vided sup­ple­men­tary train­ing in the evenings and at week­ends.

She added: “I can’t imag­ine what it would be like if you couldn’t see prop­erly, you planned to go out and you were blocked.

“Can you imag­ine how your con­fi­dence would be knocked?”

She said she and James had writ­ten to the rel­e­vant gov­ern­ment min­is­ter, Sarah New­ton, and Chel­tenham MP Alex Chalk, to high­light the prob­lem they had.

Am­ber, who went to Rib­ston Hall High School in Glouces­ter, said an apol­ogy from No. 131 would not be enough.

She wanted it to make a dona­tion to the Guide Dogs for the Blind As­so­ci­a­tion.

She said: “They be­haved ap­pallingly.”

In a state­ment, The Lucky Onion group, which is owned by Su­perdry founder Ju­lian Dunker­ton and runs No. 131, said: “Con­cerned for an­i­mal wel­fare, we at The Lucky Onion be­lieve that no dog should be sub­jected to the loud mu­sic/bar at Crazy Eights, No 131.

“At the time of the visit yes­ter­day, man­age­ment were led to be­lieve that this was a guide dog in train­ing and had no hu­man re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

“Should this not have been the case, we sin­cerely apol­o­gise.

“Go­ing for­ward, we will ini­ti­ate a strict re­view of all poli­cies and en­sure staff are re­minded of the guide dog and as­sis­tance dog own­ers’ im­por­tant rights un­der the Equal­ity Act.”

James Brit­tain with Izma, a Labrador Re­triever Cross be­ing trained as a guide dog

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