Muslims Eject Guide Dogs From Buses: Guide Dog Row

The Sunday Times (London)
July 18, 2010
Marie Woolf

THE transport minister has intervened to stop guide dogs and their blind owners from being ordered off buses because Muslim drivers or passengers
consider the animals unclean.

The refusal, for religious reasons, to carry even guide dogs has become so widespread that it was raised in the House of Lords last week by Lord
Monson, a crossbench peer.

Last night Norman Baker, the transport minister, signalled to bus companies that a religious objection was not a reason to eject a passenger with a
well-behaved dog.

“If dogs are causing a nuisance, a driver has every right to ask the owner to leave,” he said. “It is much more questionable to be asked to remove a
dog for religious reasons. One person’s freedom is someone else’s restriction.”

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said that, although refusing to take a blind person with a dog in a bus or taxi was illegal under disability
discrimination law, it received constant complaints from members.

There had been so many reports from blind people with guide dogs who had been thrown off buses or refused a ride by cab drivers that it had held
talks with Islamic organisations about the problem. The Muslim Council of
Britain yesterday urged Muslims to show tolerance and common sense. “We need to be flexible on this,” said a spokesman. “Muslim drivers should have no hesitation in allowing guide dogs into their bus or car.

“Some schools of Islam regard the saliva of dogs as impure and others think there is no problem. If a dog does lick you, it’s not the end of the world.
Just go home and wash yourself.”

George Herridge, 73, a blind former NHS maintenance manager, was told to get off two buses in Reading last year after Muslim passengers objected to his guide dog, a labrador called Andy.

“I was on the bus and a woman with two children didn’t like the dog. The driver asked me to get off.

“A few months previously I was coming home on the bus and there were some children screaming,” he said. “They were Muslims. The driver pulled over and told me to get off. Where I live is a lengthy walk into town. We have no other means of transport.”

The National Federation of the Blind said that the problem was common and “getting worse”.

Its spokeswoman, Jill Allen-King, said she had been left on the kerb repeatedly after Muslim taxi drivers had refused to take her and her guide
dog. She said there had been problems with Muslim bus drivers too.

Allen-King said: “Last year, a Muslim taxi driver went mad when I tried to get in with my dog. He said, ‘I have to go home now and wash myself.'” Chris
Laurence, veterinary director of the Dogs Trust, said: “If people have religious reservations that prevent them being anywhere near a dog, it is up
to them to move.”

Drivers have discretion to refuse to carry non-disabled passengers with dogs.

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