Dog owner Patricia Poole 'humiliated' by owner of Miretti's coffee shop in Deal after being turned away
A woman says she was humiliated when she and her guide dog were forced to leave a cafe in Deal.
Patricia Poole, of Telegraph Road, Deal, planned to have coffee with her husband George at Miretti, an Italian coffee shop in the High Street.
But they were turned away by Paolo Miretti, who said it was for hygiene reasons.
Patricia Poole and her guide dog Zebedee after they were turned away from a cafe in Deal
She has contacted MP Charlie Elphicke to raise awareness of the issue. Mr Elphicke said he was “genuinely shocked”.
Mrs Poole, 67, said: “It was humiliating as it was a busy cafe and I don’t want it to happen to somebody else.
"I explained that I have a card that states I have a guide dog and we are welcome in any cafe or shop.
“People need to know that they can’t turn guide dog owners away. It’s discrimination.”
Patricia out for a walk with Zebedee
She was given her guide dog, Zebedee, in June.
Five years ago Mrs Poole gradually started to lose her sight and is now completely blind.
She also suffers from severe arthritis, meaning movement in her fingers is limited.
She said: "I wasn’t happy to go out on my own because of traffic and walking into people or lampposts, but with Zebedee I feel safe. Ever since I got my guide dog I got my life back."
The Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act state guide dogs are exempt from any no-dogs policy relating to health and safety.
However, according to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association there are still hundreds of restaurants and shops which are illegally refusing entry to guide dog owners.
Liz Sykes, the Deal branch organiser, said: “Guide dogs are trained to a very high standard and will lay quietly either under the table or close to their owner when in a public place.
"We are always willing to work with service providers in raising awareness of assistance dogs as often it is just ignorance of their legal obligations."
Charlie Elphicke was 'genuinely shocked'
Deal and Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said: "I am astonished and genuinely shocked that Mrs Poole and her guide dog were turned away."
Paolo Miretti, the owner of Miretti's, said: "It's nothing to do with discrimination. It's to do with health and safety.
"There was space outside to sit and it was a nice day. We were very polite and the shop was full of customers."
Mr Miretti contacted the district council's technical support department for public protection, to ensure he had done the correct thing.
He was told businesses must prevent domestic animals having access to food preparation areas, and if this is not possible they must be banned.
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