Shop’s guide dog rumpus

Dawn Purcell of Fleetwood who claims she was kicked out of a shop because she had guide dog Wallace with her.
Dawn Purcell of Fleetwood who claims she was kicked out of a shop because she had guide dog Wallace with her.

A FLEETWOOD shop manager has apologised after a blind woman with a guide dog was told to leave a store.

Dawn Purcell claims she was forced out of Supernews, on Lord Street, while shopping with her granddaughters Grace, 14, and Holly, 13.

But the store manager at Supernews insists it was a misunderstanding and explained staff didn’t realise the customer was blind.

Dawn is completely blind in one eye with only tunnel vision in the other, and has had her one-year-old beige Labrador Wallace for three months.

The 53-year-old, of Maple Avenue, Fleetwood, said: “It was an awful experience. Wallace was standing by me when this man was saying get out.

“I was quite shocked to be told to leave like that.

“He said ‘I don’t want dogs in here, get out’.

“I said he couldn’t treat me like this, it’s against my human rights and it’s discrimination. I became quite upset about it.”

She says she has had trouble taking Wallace into shops before, but staff have always been understanding once she has explained her condition to them.

Dawn added: “I’ve had it a few times but usually they’re willing to listen, especially when they realise Wallace is a guide dog. I’m losing my confidence because I’m still trying to get used to the feel of the dog.

“I’ve written to the shop asking the man to justify what he did. I’d like him just to live in my world for one day – he may think differently then.”

However, Richard Antonas, store manager at Supernews, said there was a genuine misunderstanding about the situation.

He said: “We didn’t know the lady was blind. She got angry and I apologised, but she said she didn’t accept our apology.”

A spokeswoman for Lancashire Police confirmed the force would be looking into the incident, which happened at around 5.15pm on Tuesday, January 8.

She said: “We have received a report about the incident at the shop. We will be speaking with the owners of Supernews.”

Guide Dogs’ engagement manager for Fleetwood, Tony Cook, said: “Guide dog owners rely on their dogs for mobility and independence, which is recognised in the Equality Act 2010.

“The Act requires service providers not to discriminate against people with assistance dogs, but we regularly get complaints that guide dog owners have been refused access to places with their dogs, which can be very distressing.

“We’re happy to work with Supernews to offer training and advice on the law and just how important a job guide dogs do for their owners.”