A TAXI driver has been fined after refusing a guide dog to travel with her registered blind owner in Newport.
Suzanne James, 54, of Cormorant Way, Duffryn, is registered blind and called Dragon Taxi's in August last year to pick her and her daughter up along with her seven-year-old guide dog Tai after a shopping trip. The driver of the saloon taxi refused to allow the black labrador into his taxi citing that he was allergic to them, she said.
When Ms James questioned whether he had a medical certificate and said that she wanted to make a complaint, she said the driver supplied the wrong name and driver ID.
She said: "I don't have to say I have a guide dog with me but I usually do out of courtesy. If you refuse the dog you refuse me, Tai is my eyes. She is fully trained, she is no trouble at all, she would usually curl up in the footwell and go to sleep.
"It's disgusting really, it's happening all over the place. Something needs to be done they are getting away with it. I've had a driver try to charge me extra for my guide dog.
"I'm not happy, he's just been given a slap on the wrist. I have had sleepless nights, my confidence has taken a knock because of this."
Newport council said the former Dragon's Taxi driver pleaded guilty at Newport Magistrates Court on March 28, 2014 and received a 12 month conditional discharge. The driver was ordered to pay £100 contribution towards Newport City Council’s costs and the £15 victim surcharge.
The Equality Act 2010, states that taxi drivers must pick up guide dogs or risk committing a criminal offence, unless they have a medical exemption certificate from the council.
A spokeswoman for Newport City Council said: "Following complaints from an individual about the failure of a taxi driver to take them and their assistance dog in their taxi, Newport City Council’s licensing department investigated the matter. The driver’s claim that he was allergic to dogs was unsubstantiated and he did not have the required exemption certificate.
"Newport City Council’s policy is that all licensed hackney carriages / private hire vehicles must carry assistance dogs unless the driver has an exemption certificate displayed in a prominent position."
Michelle Bennett, supervisor at Dragon's Taxi's, said: "We are aware of that incident and the driver was suspended. He doesn't work here anymore."
Jonathan Mudd, mobility team manager for Guide Dogs Cymru, said: "Unfortunately, it is still a common occurrence that the law is not respected or enforced. Guide Dogs as an organisation is happy to support people with training and advice, and we will be keen to liaise with taxi companies to offer any additional support they require."